Reclusive Taliban supreme leader appears, denies rumors of his death
KABUL (Reuters) – Reclusive Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada made a rare public appearance in the southern city of Kandahar, Taliban sources said on Sunday, denying widespread rumors of his death.
Akhundzada here, known as the leader of the faithful or Amir ul Momineen, had not been seen in public even after the Taliban took control of the country in August, which has given rise to speculation.
A senior Taliban official who was present with Akhundzada during the appearance told Reuters that the supreme leader visited Jamia Darul Aloom Hakimia, a religious school in Kandahar on Saturday.
As the Islamist movement unveiled its interim government in September after the withdrawal of US-led forces, the mysterious Akhundzada retained the role he had held since 2016 of supreme leader, the ultimate authority on political, religious and soldiers of the group.
Although some officials say Akhundzada has made unpublished public appearances before, this was the first confirmed appearance by a man who has long kept a low profile.
The only photo Reuters could verify of him was an undated image posted on a Taliban Twitter feed in May 2016.
This obscure existence has led to constant speculation about his fate and his health.
Previously, the Taliban had not confirmed the death of their original founder and supreme leader, Mullah Omar, for years.
Report from Kabul and Islamabad newsrooms; Editing by William Mallard