Taliban taps new leader, delays peace talks

Taliban taps new leader, delays peace talks
© Getty Images

The Taliban announced Wednesday evening that it tapped a new leader to succeed Mullah Omar, following reports confirming the death of the group's first leader.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is now the head of the Islamic fundamentalist group, according to Reuters.

“The shura held outside Quetta unanimously elected Mullah Mansour as the new emir of the Taliban,” according to a Taliban commander from Quetta, Pakistan, in the report.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The shura will release a statement shortly,” the report added of the assembly.

Reuters said two Taliban representatives refused to directly confirm Omar’s death Wednesday night but acknowledged the move to a successor.

“If we are electing a new leader to head the movement, you can yourself understand what that implies,” one representative told the news outlet.

The Taliban also noted that Siraj Haqqani, head of its powerful Haqqani militant faction, is now serving as Mansour’s deputy.

The Taliban is also postponing the next round of peace talks with Afghanistan’s government, according to Pakistan.

“Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hope that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said of the planned talks in Kabul.

Afghan officials reported on Wednesday that Omar had died as long as three years ago.

The White House lent credibility to those claims during a press conference that afternoon.

“We do believe that reports of his death are credible,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters, adding that he was not yet ready to confirm the Taliban mastermind’s death.

Omar led the Taliban to victory in Afghanistan’s civil war following the Soviet Union’s departure.

America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.

Omar had been hiding from U.S. forces, with the State Department issuing a $10 million bounty on his head.

Wednesday’s reports of his death leave the Taliban without its first military and spiritual leader since the group’s emergence in the 1990s.