The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday named one of the deputies of its former leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, to succeed him, after confirming Mr. Mansour’s death in a U.S. drone strike at the weekend.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main Spokesman, said in the statement, in Peshawar (Afghan), that Mr. Mansour would be replaced by Haibatullah Akhunzada.
He said Mr. Akhunzada, was named in a United Nations report last year as the Taliban’s former chief justice.
Mr. Mujahid said Sirajuddin Haqqani, Head of a Feared Network and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, would serve as deputies.
The announcement, following a meeting of the Taliban’s main shura, or leadership council, ended days of confusion during which the Taliban declined to confirm the death of Mansour in a drone strike in Pakistan on Saturday.
The spokesman said all the shura members have pledged allegiance to Sheikh Haibatullah in a safe place in Afghanistan.
“All people are required to obey the new Emir-al-Momineen (commander of the faithful).
Mr. Mujahid said Mr. Akhunzada, who is 60 years of age, and a member of the powerful Noorzai tribe, is from Kandahar, in the south of Afghanistan, the heartland of the Taliban.
He said he was a close aide to Mullah Omar, and is understood to share Mr. Omar’s aversion for publicity, including the leaking of any photographs of him.
Some members of the Taliban believe Mr. Mansour may have been traced and later killed because a photograph of him was shared after his appointment as leader in 2015.
A senior Taliban said on condition of anonymity that senior members of the insurgent group had been keenly aware of the need to appoint a candidate who could bring disparate factions together.
Such leader should also be able to repair the splits that emerged last year when Mr. Mansour was appointed.
He, however, said there was no immediate indication of whether the appointment would lead to a shift in the stance of the Taliban, which under Mr. Mansour ruled out participating in peace talks with the government in Kabul.