Al Qaeda leader pledges allegiance to new Taliban chief
Ayman al-Zawahiri issues audio statement outlining stance on new leader
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photograph: Getty
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged the group’s allegiance to the new head of the Afghan Taliban, in an audio statement posted online, showing the organisation’s stance on his disputed accession.
“We pledge our allegiance ... (to) our lord, leader of the faithful, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, may god protect him,” said Zawahiri, who is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban’s base.
Meanwhile, Afghan officials are due in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss reviving suspended peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan‘s national security adviser said, days after Taliban attacks killed dozens of people in Kabul.
The attacks followed a change of leadership in the Afghan Taliban and have dashed any hopes of an immediate resumption of peace talks with the government. They suggest new Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour intends to send a message that there will be no letup in the insurgency.
The violence also prompted Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to launch a scathing attack on Pakistan, demanding that it take action against the Taliban after the bombings killed more than 50 people.
Many in Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of being host to Taliban bases that are used to plan attacks such as the bombings over the weekend. Pakistan, which faces its own Taliban insurgency, denies that it has actively allowed its territory to be used in this way.
Pakistan last month hosted inaugural talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who are fighting to re-establish hard-line Islamist rule more than 13 years after the US-led military intervention that toppled their regime.
“Our priority of course is reconciliation,“ National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz told reporters.
The Afghan delegation will be led by foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani and include national security adviser Hanif Atmar, acting defence minister Masoom Stanikzai and intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil.
Aziz told reporters that he understood Ghani’s anger, and hoped to remove any “misunderstandings“ during the talks.
“They are frustrated obviously because bomb blasts and peace talks can‘t go together,“ he said.