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Afghan Taliban announces new leader

Mullah Omar commanded the Taliban during the insurgency against NATO forces [AFP]

Date of publication: 31 July, 2015

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Following the death of the Taliban's illusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the movement has announced a new leader who takes over the title 'commander of the faithful'.

The Afghan Taliban praised their new leader, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansoor, in a statement released on Friday. This came a day after the movement announced its spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar had died. 

The Taliban said Mansoor was one of the most "trusted" associates of Omar, which is likely meant to rally followers behind the leadership at a time of a deeply fractured insurgency.

Mansoor, was also given the title "commander of the faithful", previously held by Omar.

The statement said the new leader had played an "active" role in the organisation. It did not give any details of when and why Omar died.

On Thursday, the Taliban confirmed Mullah Omar died of an illness some time ago and that they had elected Mansoor as his successor. The Afghan government announced Wednesday that the reclusive mullah had been dead since April 2013.

Peace talks

The Taliban reacted by pulling out of peace talks that were scheduled to take place on Friday. The Pakistani government, which was to host the meeting, postponed the negotiations indefinitely.

Kabul said it regretted the postponement of the second formal face-to-face meeting with the Taliban.

In a statement, the foreign affairs ministry said Afghanistan "as always, is committed to the peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban movement and hopes that the aforementioned meeting will be held in the near future".

While the future of the peace process, which is a priority for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, is uncertain, the ministry said: "Afghanistan believes that in the current situation, peace negotiations are (more) possible than at any time before."

The new leader of the Taliban is considered to be close to Pakistan, which is believed to have sheltered and supported the insurgents through the war, now in its 14th year. This may put him in a position to revive the peace talks.

According to the Taliban, as Mullah Omar's deputy, Mansoor has been effectively running the insurgency for the past three years. He is said to have the loyalty of battlefield commanders who have intensified and spread their insurgency against Kabul in recent months.

Taliban attacks against Afghan officials and forces have intensified with their warm-weather annual offensive and since NATO's combat troops pulled out of the country at the end of last year, leaving Afghan forces in charge of the security situation.

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