Afghan Taliban names new leader following death of former leader in US drone strike

Little is known about Haibatullah Akhunzada but he is reported to be a respected religious scholar

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This photo taken by a freelance photographer Abdul Salam Khan using his smart phone on Sunday, May 22, 2016, purports to show the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was traveling. Image: Abdul Salam Khan / AP/Press Association Images

The Afghan Taliban has named Haibatullah Akhunzada as its new leader after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike.

According to AFP, the insurgents struggled to find a successor after the two main contenders backed out of the race.

One of them was Sirajuddin Haqqani, a guerrilla commander who is regarded by US officials as the most dangerous warlord within the organisation.

Akhunzada was one of Mansour's two deputies, and it is believed he was selected at a meeting held in Pakistan.

Little is known about the man but he is reported to be a respected religious scholar.

A Taliban spokesman said Akhunzada was appointed following "unanimous agreement" in the supreme council, with all members pledging allegiance to him.

A statement said: "All people are required to obey the new Emir-al-Momineen (commander of the faithful)."

The announcement, following a meeting of the Taliban's main shura or leadership council, ends three days of confusion during which the Islamist movement had provided no official reaction to the death of Mansour.

The news came as a suicide attack on a bus carrying staff from an appeal court killed 10 people and wounded four west of the Afghan capital, Kabul. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The strike against Mansour, which had been authorised by President Barack Obama, took place on Saturday afternoon in a remote area of Pakistan - not far from the border it shares with Afghanistan.

A Pentagon spokesman has alleged Mansour was overseeing plans to specifically target US personnel and troops assisting and training Afghan armed forces.

Peter Cook said in a statement that Mansour "has been the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel, and Coalition partners".

Pakistan has described the drone strike as a "violation" of its airspace and sovereignty, as America only shared information about the attack after it had occurred.