ISLAMABAD: Amid differences over election of their new chief, Afghan Taliban in a rare move on Monday released a video pledging allegiance to the group’s new head, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Traditionally, Taliban do not release videos of their gatherings. The move is being seen as an attempt to dispel the impression of internal rifts within the group and portray a united front as some senior Taliban leaders, as well as the family of Mullah Omar have opposed Mansoor’s nomination as successor.
Mullah Abdul Manan, brother of deceased Taliban supremo Mullah Omar, on Sunday rejected the election of Mansoor as the new chief of the orthodox militia and refused to pledge allegiance to him.
The Taliban information wing sent the 100 second video to The Express Tribune and other media outlets via WhatsApp.
While Mansoor is not clearly visible in the video, some Taliban members and religious scholars are shown pledging allegiance to him.
Dozens of Taliban members wearing white turbans and caps can be seen in the video, apparently inside a religious seminary.
While the voice is also not clear in the video, a caption reads, “One part of the ceremony of allegiance to the new chief.” Some members can be heard as saying, “Allah has willed it.”
The Taliban did not confirm where the meeting was held.
Further, the Taliban also issued still photos with the video showing gatherings that Taliban and sympathisers in some parts of Afghanistan accepted the leadership of the new chief.
Mullah Omar’s family refuses to back new Taliban leader
The family of deceased Taliban leader Mullah Omar has refused to pledge allegiance to his successor, calling on religious scholars to settle a deepening rift within insurgent ranks over the power transition.
Splits have emerged between Mansour and those who challenged his appointment, including the late leader’s son Yakoub and his brother, Mullah Abdul Manan.
“Our family… has not declared allegiance to anyone amid these differences,” Manan said in an audio message released Sunday, without naming Mansour.
“We want the ulema (religious scholars) to resolve the differences rather than declaring allegiance to any side,” said the audio message, which Taliban sources confirmed was from Manan.
“Our family will serve the new leader… if he is elected with consensus.”
The comments highlight the Taliban’s biggest leadership crisis in recent years at a time when the rival Islamic State group is making gradual inroads into Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the Taliban issued a written statement purportedly quoting Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, in an effort to quell rumours about his death and further support Mullah Mansoor.
The statement, posted to the Taliban’s website, quoted Haqqani mourning the loss of Mullah Omar. It said Haqqani backed Mullah Mansoor as the Taliban’s leader. “My particular recommendation to all members of the Islamic Emirate is to maintain their internal unity and discipline,” the statement quotes Haqqani as saying. The statement added that Haqqani said followers should not be deceived by enemy propaganda.
Mullah Omar’s death was officially confirmed by the Afghan Taliban on July 30. His family and the Taliban leadership council in a statement confirmed he passed away in a peaceful manner.