Afghanistan: Who's Who In The Taliban Leadership

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The Taliban has not yet announced a new government after taking control of Afghanistan but the hardline Islamist group confirmed Sunday that its supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada is in Afghanistan and could soon appear in public for the first time
Taliban confirmed Sunday that its supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada is in Afghanistan (File)

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The inner workings and leadership of the group have long been shrouded in secrecy -- even during their rule from 1996 to 2001 -- but here is a rundown of what is known:

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader

Hibatullah Akhundzada was appointed leader of the Taliban in a swift power transition after a US drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Mansour Akhtar, in 2016.

Before ascending the movement's ranks, Akhundzada was a low-profile religious figure. He is widely believed to have been selected to serve more as a spiritual figurehead than a military commander.

After being appointed leader, Akhundzada secured a pledge of loyalty from Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who showered the cleric with praise -- calling him "the emir of the faithful".

This helped seal his jihadi credentials with the group's long-time allies.

Akhundzada was tasked with the enormous challenge of unifying a terrorist movement that briefly fractured during the bitter power struggle after Akhtar's assassination, and the revelation that the leadership had hidden the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar for years.

Until now, his public profile has largely been limited to the release of messages during Islamic holidays.

"He is present in…
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