Mysterious Taliban “Supreme Leader” First Public Appearance

the essential The mysterious “supreme leader” of the Taliban, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, has appeared in public for the first time since his appointment in 2016.

Some said he was dead, hidden in Pakistan, or living in hiding in his province of Kandahar: the mysterious “supreme leader” of the Taliban, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, appeared in public for the first time since his appointment in 2016, the Taliban government announced on Sunday.

“The Commander of the Believers, Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada, made an appearance at a large gathering at the famous Hakimiya madrassa and spoke for ten minutes to the valiant soldiers and disciples,” the Taliban government said in a message on Sunday. audio support.

In this distributed audio clip, the mullah can be heard very indistinctly reciting prayers and blessings.

According to a local source, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada arrived in this Koranic school in Kandahar, with a convoy of two cars under very high security and no photographs were allowed.

With the exception of rare annual messages during Islamic holidays, the top Taliban leader had hitherto maintained greater discretion around himself. Until the American withdrawal from the country, no one knew where he was or if he was still alive. Only one photo of him, gray beard and turban, had been distributed by the Taliban.

Until he succeeded Mansour in 2016, killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan, Hibatullah Akhundzada was relatively unknown, more involved in judicial and religious matters than in military maneuvers.

“Seminar”

Upon coming to power, the Taliban mullah quickly secured the loyalty of Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, who called him an “emir of the believers”, the highest responsibility in religion. Sunni jihadist galaxy. In his function of “supreme leader”, Hibatullah Akhundzada is responsible for maintaining the union within the Taliban, a complex mission after the first internal cracks at the time of the announcement of the death – hidden for two years – of the founder of the movement Islamist, Mullah Omar.

His last message dates back to September 7, when the new government was appointed from which he demanded the application of Islamic law, sharia, in the affairs of the state. The new power, anxious to put an end to rumors, had announced in September that Hibatullah Akhundzada had lived “from the beginning” in Kandahar and that he would appear “soon in public”.

“We have regular meetings with him on monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and how to run our government,” one of his relatives, Mullah Yussef Wafa, governor of Kandahar, told AFP on Wednesday. “He gives advice to all the leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and we follow his rules, his advice, and if we have a government that is making progress, it is thanks to his advice,” he added. .

A “seminar” bringing together senior Taliban officials in a secret location for several days has been organized since Friday in Kandahar, an AFP journalist noted.

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