Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Im­tiaz Ahmed let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Tal­iban named Mul­lah Akhtar Man­soor’s suc­ces­sor on Wednesday as the group con­firmed the late chief was killed in a US drone strike in Balochis­tan last week.

The new chief, Mul­lah Haibat­ul­lah Akhundzada, is one of Man­soor’s two deputies. A scholar known for his ex­trem­ist views, he is un­likely to back a peace process with Kabul. In a state­ment sent to the me­dia, the Tal­iban said he was cho­sen at a meet­ing be­lieved to have taken place in Pak­istan.

“The Is­lamic Emi­rate of Afghanistan an­nounces that Mul­lah Akhtar Man­soor em­braced sha­ha­dat in a US drone strike in the border re­gion near Kan­da­har’s Regis­tan and Balochis­tan’s Naushki area,” a state­ment from the Tal­iban read.

Man­soor was ap­pointed head of the Afghan Tal­iban last July fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tion that the group’s founder Mul­lah Omar had been dead for two years. The elec­tion of a new leader took time as the Rah­bari Shura wanted to evolve a broad­based con­sen­sus to avoid any con­tro­versy, said the Tal­iban lead­ers.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ports said se­nior mem­bers of the Tal­iban had been keenly aware of the need to ap­point a can­di­date who could re­pair the splits that emerged when Man­soor was ap­pointed.

Pak­istan Army chief gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif warned that the drone strike tar­get­ing Man­soor is detri­men­tal to bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Pak­istan and the US.

Mul­lah Haibat­ul­lah Akhundzada

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