The Afghan Taliban has announced a new leader to replace Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week.
In a statement on May 25, the group confirmed Mansour’s death and named Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada (Watch the video clip), one of Mansour’s two deputies and a former head of the Taliban’s judiciary, as successor.
The statement said Akhundzada was appointed “after a unanimous agreement” in a meeting of Taliban leaders, which was believed to have been held in Pakistan.
Also selected to serve as deputies were Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a network blamed for many high-profile bombs attacks in Kabul in recent years, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Mansour was killed in Pakistan on May 21 when his vehicle was struck by a U.S. drone in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Mansour was declared the leader of the Taliban in July 2015, just days after the Afghan government confirmed that Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died in the Pakistani port city of Karachi two years earlier.
But a leadership dispute immediately ensued, with some Taliban commanders refusing to recognize Mansour.
U.S. and Afghan officials said Mansour had been an obstacle to efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been waging an insurgency for 15 years.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law until the group was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The movement has since been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government.