The Afghan Taliban Wednesday confirmed the appointment of a new leader following the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike last week. This is the group’s first official confirmation that Mansour was killed.
In a statement sent to media, the Taliban declared that their new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, one of two of Mansour's deputies. It said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders, which was believed to have been held in Pakistan.
Akhundzada was named in a United Nations report last year as the Taliban's former chief justice, Reuters said. Although he is reported to be a respected religious scholar, little is known of his background.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, said in the statement that Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob will serve as deputies. Haqqani is the head of a network blamed for many high-profile bomb attacks in Kabul in recent years and Yaqoob is the son of founder and former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
“All people are required to obey the new Emir-al-Momineen (commander of the faithful),” the statement reportedly said.
Mansour was killed in Pakistan Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a U.S. drone. According to the Associated Press, this is believed to be the first time a Taliban leader was killed in such a way inside Pakistani territory.
The Taliban have made considerable gains since NATO forces ended their main combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014. The group now controls more of the country than at any time since they were ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
The news came as a suicide attack killed 10 people and wounded four near the Afghan capital city, Kabul. The target was reportedly a bus carrying staff from an appeal court. The Taliban later claimed responsibility of the attack saying 22 people had been killed or wounded.