Is Haqqani network chief dead?

The Afghan Taliban issued a statement under Mullah Omar’s name on July 15 in which the founder-leader was quoted to have approved the peace deal.

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On Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Office announced that the second round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban had been postponed after the reports surfaced about the death of Taliban Supreme Command Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The Afghan Taliban has publicly named its new leader: Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, according to two commanders of the Islamic militant organization. Mansoor grew up in Maiwand district of Kandahar province in Afghanistan, and lived not far from the home of Mullah Omar when the country descended into civil war. Afghan government officials said that he died two years ago in a hospital in Pakistan.

The rift was out in the open when the Taliban released a statement this morning stating their political department was unaware of the talks and it was only the media that was speculating about these peace initiatives undertaken in Pakistan. A large number of activists of JuD – a terror outfit listed by the UN but operates freely across Pakistan – attended the prayer at its headquarters in Chauburji here last evening. “It’s not clear if Mullah Omar had much, if any, influence left at the time of his death, and many believe he’d been reduced to a symbolic figurehead”, wrote correspondent Tom A. Peter.

Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, a top Afghan Taliban leader, who backed the peace process and a former aviation minister in the pre-2001 Taliban regime, has been appointed the new chief of the insurgent group.

The Taliban also announced his deputies, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the Taliban-allied Haqqani network and has a $10m US bounty on his head, and Haibatullah Akhundzada, former head of the Taliban courts.

A Taliban official said that after the group’s ruling council had chosen a successor for Omar, the decision was supposed to be ratified by a college of religious clerics.

Zakir is pushing for Mullah Omar’s son Yaqoob to take over the movement, and a sizeable faction also supports Yaqoob. The statement confirmed Sirajuddin Haqqani as one of its newly-elected deputy leaders. Critics speculate that this may convince him to revive the peace talks.

Pakistan-based security expert Rahimullah Yusufzai said that it had been Mansoor who convinced the Taliban leadership to send a delegation to peace talks that began this month. He’s believed to be in his late 40s.

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“I don’t think this agreement to go to the negotiating table is determined by personality; it’s more about the circumstances”.

Afghan boys walk along in front of Mullah