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Taliban confirms Mullah Omar’s death, picks successor

The Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, has chosen Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as the new leader

High-ranking officials from the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Thursday the death of their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and said the group’s top council has elected his successor, a senior figure who served as the reclusive mullah’s deputy for the past three years.

The Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, chose Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as the new leader, two Taliban figures told The Associated Press. The two said the seven-member Shura had met in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Mansoor is considered close to the Pakistani authorities and his election could further divide an already-fractured Taliban as he is believed to have links to opposing councils within the movement. The Taliban is believed to have splintered under pressure to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government after almost 14 years of war.

Blow to peace process

The peace process suffered a blow earlier on Thursday, first when the Afghan Taliban indicated they were pulling out of the negotiations with the Kabul government, and later, when the Pakistan foreign ministry confirmed the talks hosted by Islamabad were postponed.

Following Mansoor’s election, the Taliban also chose Sirajuddin Haqqani as its new deputy leader, the two Taliban figures said.

The Afghan government first announced on Wednesday that Mullah Omar is dead and that he in fact died over two years ago in a hospital in Pakistan.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was postponing the talks due to the “uncertainty” surrounding Mullah Omar’s death but gave no new date for the negotiations.

The first round of the official discussions, supervised by U.S. and Chinese representatives, was hosted by Islamabad earlier this month. It ended with both sides agreeing to meet again — a significant progress in itself.

It was not immediately clear if the latest developments had scuttled the peace process altogether or whether it was just a serious setback. The fracturing within the Taliban movement, and the rise to power of figures seen as potentially hostile to peace talks, could lead to an intensification of the war against Kabul, which has been particularly vicious this year as it spread from the traditional Taliban heartlands bordering Pakistan in the south and east to the northern provinces.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 5:49:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/taliban-confirm-leaders-death-choose-mullah-omar-successor/article7481739.ece

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