Kabul: The Afghan Taliban has confirmed the death of its supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike and announced influential religious figure Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader.
"Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura (supreme council), and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him," the insurgents said in a statement.
The successor was chosen by the Taliban's supreme council at a meeting held at an undisclosed location in Pakistan.
Taliban founder Mullah Omar's son Mullah Yakoub and Sirajuddin Haqqani, described as “an implacable foe of US forces” were appointed as deputies of Akhundzada.
Interestingly, Mullah Yakoub and Sirajuddin Haqqani were among the frontrunners for the top job before the Taliban decided in favour of Akhunzada.
"Yakoub has refused to accept the role, saying he is too young for it," a senior Taliban source in northwest Pakistan told AFP.
"Mansour's deputy and operational head of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has also refused due to personal reasons."
Haibatullah Akhundzada was Mansour's deputy in his previous role in the Taliban.
Others in the fray were former deputy Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is said to be close to the Pakistani military establishment and Mullah Adbul Qayyum Zakir, considered one of the Taliban's most violent and committed commanders.
Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was elevated to the leadership of the Taliban after a bitter power struggle, was targeted in an airstrike on Saturday in a remote part of Pakistan's western Balochistan province.
With agency inputs