Mullah Akhtar Mansour has reportedly been identified as the man who will replace Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader whose death more than two years ago has been confirmed by the Afghan government and the terrorist group itself.
Sources close to the Taliban leadership described Mansour as Mullah Omar’s longtime deputy, Reuters reports.
“The shura [gathering] held outside [the Pakistani city of] Quetta unanimously elected Mullah Mansour as the new emir of the Taliban,” said one commander at the Wednesday night meeting, according to Reuters.
Supreme leader Mullah Omar’s replacement was chosen as Pakistan announced that peace talks scheduled for Friday between the Taliban and the Afghan government had been postponed.
Mansour is in favor of peace talks, notes BBC. He is expected to be called Supreme Leader – not Leader of the Faithful as Mullah Omar was called.
The Afghan government reported the death of Mullah Omar, who led the insurgency movement for about 20 years, on Wednesday. His demise was confirmed by the Taliban the following day, BBC has learned.
Many senior Taliban figures oppose Mansour’s appointment as Mullah Omar’s successor, correspondents reportedly said, adding that the move “is likely to divide the militants.”
A statement from the Taliban failed to reveal where, when, or how their leader died, simply noting that he died from an illness and had remained on Afghan soil since the start of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan nearly 14 years ago on October 7, 2001.
The Taliban’s account is inconsistent with claims by Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency that Mullah Omar died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan more than two years ago. Pakistan continues to dismiss allegations that the Taliban leader had been residing within its borders.
“The death has disrupted peace talks between Afghanistan and the insurgents, with a second round of negotiations due on Friday postponed,” notes BBC.
Pakistan, which is expected to host the peace talks, claims that it was the Taliban’s leadership who requested the rescheduling of the negotiations amid uncertainty over Mullah Omar’s demise.
“The naming of Mullah Mansour as Taliban leader was far from unanimous and followed days of intense debate,” reports BBC. “Sources close to the movement’s leading council, or shura, say many senior commanders and other Taliban heavyweights were dismayed by the decision.”
“They are thought to include the movement’s top military commander, Mullah Qaum Zakir, as well as Tayeb Agha, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, and Mullah Habibullah, a member of the Quetta shura,” it adds. “They would have preferred Mullah Omar’s son, Yaqoob, to succeed him, and accuse pro-Pakistani circles of imposing Mullah Mansour on the rebels.”
Mansour is only the second person to lead the Taliban after Mullah Omar, who founded the terrorist organization during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s.