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HomePoliticsWorldHibatullah Akhundzada, Taliban head, photographed only once?

Hibatullah Akhundzada, Taliban head, photographed only once?

During the previous Taliban rule, Hibatullah Akhundzada was the deputy head of its 'supreme court'; post-2001, he became their religious head

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While terrorists of the Taliban claim to have transformed in their second innings as the rulers of Afghanistan, their ‘supreme leader’ Hibatullah Akhundzada’s remains elusive. Agence France Presse says it tried to track Hibatullah Akhundzada since the fall of Kabul and found that nothing much is known about him.

As the Taliban is silent on the whereabouts of Hibatullah Akhundzada, they released only one photograph of their his. The terrorist honcho never made a public appearance.

His day-to-day activities are not known. Hibatullah Akhundzada releases only one annual message during Islamic holidays. “You will see him soon, Insha’Allah,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters this week.

Hibatullah Akhundzada: Who? Where?

Hibatullah Akhundzada has been leading the Taliban since 2016. The Kandahar-based terrorist, who was involved in the Islamist resistance during the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, is more reputed as a religious leader than a military commander. He was made the successor of Akhtar Mohammad Mansour after a US drone strike killed the latter in 2016. It was said that Akhtar Mohammad Mansour wanted Hibatullah Akhundzada to succeed him.

During the previous Taliban rule, Hibatullah Akhundzada was the deputy head of its ‘supreme court’. After 2001, following the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, he became the head of the group’s council of religious scholars.

The absence of Hibatullah Akhundzada persisted amid years of rumours about his health. Meanwhile, Pakistanis and Afghans gossipped he had contracted Covid-19 or the US had eliminated him. “There has never been much in the way to prove these rumours, but Akhundzada’s secrecy comes at a sensitive time for the erstwhile insurgency,” agency AFP writes.

But there is another photograph of the elusive terrorists that the media uses sparingly:

The rarer photograph of Hibatullah Akhundzada
The rarer photograph of Hibatullah Akhundzada

Why this shroud of secrecy

This is not new for the Taliban leadership as most of the top terrorists have remained in the shadows for years. Their founder Mullah Mohammad Omar was an enigmatic figure who was reluctant to even meet visitors.

There might be many reasons for this style and security concerns is one of them. “The Taliban consider themselves in a state of jihad as long as foreign troops are on Afghan soil and will likely keep their leader hidden until they leave. That’s why the supreme leader is not surfacing,” Pakistan-based security analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP.

With inputs from AFP

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