The Afghan Taliban announced Friday that its 'shura' or supreme council has chosen Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as the new chief of the Afghan insurgent group a day after confirming reports of the death of its founder, Mullah Omar.
Friday's announcement in Pashto language was emailed to VOA by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. The new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor served as deputy to Mullah Omar and was the head of the Taliban's political and military affairs.
The announcement also said that Maulvi Haibatullah Akundzada and Maulvi Sirajuddin Haqqani have been appointed as deputies to Mansoor.
Sirajuddin Haqqani has long headed the so-called Haqqani network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban and based in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border. The network has been blamed for many of the deadliest attacks against coalition forces and the Afghan government during the war.
Taliban sources identified Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzada as the former head of courts during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan before 2001
Although the Taliban’s official communication channels announced Mullah Mansoor as the new leader, Taliban sources say his leadership is highly contested by some factions which instead favor Mullah Yaqoub, the eldest son of Mullah Omar.
On Thursday, the Pakistani government announced the group’s ongoing peace talks with the Afghan government have been postponed following the Taliban’s confirmation that its longtime leader, Mullah Omar, had died of an illness.
The Taliban has not said when he died, but the Afghan government claims Omar died two years ago in a hospital in Karachi.
Mullah Omar led the Taliban when U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. The Taliban supported al-Qaida and sheltered its leader at the time, Osama bin Laden, who took credit for planning the attack by hijacked airliners that killed nearly 3,000 people in the U.S.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks the U.S. government offered large rewards for the capture of many al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. A $10 million bounty was offered for Mullah Omar. There is also up to a $10 million bounty for Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Omar had been the supreme commander and spiritual leader of Afghanistan since 1996. After fleeing into Pakistan, he dropped out of sight after the U.S. invasion that followed the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.