Facing dissent, Afghan Taliban meet to resolve leadership dispute

Published August 5, 2015
Members of Mullah Omar's family have rejected the appointment of the new leader, his deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, demanding a new and wider vote. —Picture courtesy Asmatullah
Members of Mullah Omar's family have rejected the appointment of the new leader, his deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, demanding a new and wider vote. —Picture courtesy Asmatullah

KABUL: The family of former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar agreed on Tuesday to accept the decision of the insurgent group's dispute resolution council on succession issues, a council member said, as the group tries to extinguish a leadership dispute that has exposed growing internal divisions.

Members of Mullah Omar's family have rejected the appointment of the new leader, his deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, demanding a new and wider vote.

The Taliban have issued a series of statements aimed at deflecting the dissent and their spokesman has denied that a new vote would be held.

On Tuesday, about 200 high-ranking Taliban members and commanders met in Quetta with Mullah Omar's brother Mullah Abdul Manan and son Mullah Yaqub, said Mullah Hameedullah, a member of the Taliban's unity council, which effectively functions as a dispute resolution committee.

“We discussed the problems of both sides and in the end Mullah Omar's family gave authority to the Unity Shura that whatever decision they take they will agree to it and accept it,” Mullah Hameedullah told The Associated Press. He said the council would next meet with Mullah Mansoor.

Mullah Yaqub confirmed he had attended the meeting but gave no further details.

Also read: Former Afghan warlord says Taliban weaker amid infighting

The meeting follows days of building animosity as cracks appear in the Taliban's carefully guarded veneer. Some within the Taliban are questioning the legitimacy of Mullah Mansoor, who has acted as a proxy leader in Mullah Omar's name since he died in April 2013.

The Taliban issued another statement on Tuesday urging followers to disregard “enemy propaganda” about internal fractures and to unite behind Mullah Omar's chosen successor.

The statement, signed by spokesmen Zabihullah Mujahid and Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, called on supporters to “help write messages and letters on social media” to show a united front.

The Taliban last week confirmed the death of Mullah Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed leader who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and sheltered Osama bin Laden, after it was initially announced by Afghanistan's security agency.

Know more: Mullah Omar did not die in Pakistan, say Afghan Taliban

Mullah Mansoor was chosen to succeed him by the insurgent group's supreme council.

Lately, Taliban fighters have been defecting to the Islamic State group in northern Kunduz province, and the two rival militant groups have increasingly fought it out there.

The IS, which already controls about one-third of Syria and Iraq, is thought to have a small but growing presence in Afghanistan.

The Kunduz governor's spokesman, Abdul Wadood Wahidi, said about 50 Taliban fighters in the province's Archi district joined the IS three days ago after being offered money. This set off fierce fighting between the rivals and the Taliban arrested the defectors, he said.

The incident, Wahidi said, “shows there is a fracturing among the Taliban ranks.”

The Afghan government, meanwhile, banned any public mourning for Mullah Omar, saying late Monday that it would cause “anguish and humiliation” for those who have lost loved ones in the war with the Taliban.

A statement from the National Directorate of Security said public gatherings to commemorate Mullah Omar's death would be a “legitimate military target.”

Take a look: Afghanistan says gatherings mourning Mullah Omar 'legitimate target'

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