Breakaway Taliban faction names new leader in Afghanistan

Though dominant, the Taliban are not the only faction waging war in Afghanistan.

Followers of a breakaway Taliban faction, who call themselves suicide bombers, stand guard during a gathering,in  Zabul province, southern Afghanistan on August 15,2016. The faction, known as Mahaaz-e-Dadullah, appointed aMullah Emdadullah Mansoor as leader  Mirwais Khan / AP
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KANDAHAR // A breakaway Taliban faction in Afghanistan has appointed a new leader for the group, the nephew of its former longtime leader who was killed in fighting with rivals last year.

The development reflects the complex layers of the insurgency in Afghanistan, where the Taliban – though dominant – are not the only militant group waging war.

At a gathering on Monday in the southern province of Zabul, Mullah Emdadullah Mansoor was named as leader of the faction known as Mahaaz-e-Dadullah. The meeting was attended by tribal and religious leaders, as well as the group’s local commanders.

Video of the gathering shows Mullah Mansoor accepting the leadership position among a crowd of gunmen, mostly young guards. He is the nephew of Mullah Mansoor Dadullah who was killed in the Khak-e-Afghan district of Zabul last year, fighting with rival Taliban.

“I accept the leadership of these men, based on the decision of the clerics,” said Mullah Mansoor, promising to “fight foreign forces” and exact revenge for the group’s killed leader.

Before Mullah Dadullah was killed in Zabul, the founder of the group, also called Mullah Dadullah, was killed in an ambush, possibly by one of his bodyguards in southern Helmand province. He was also an uncle of the newly named leader.

At the Monday gathering, several armed men in white-coloured clothing with black balaclavas who call themselves suicide bombers said they were ready to carry out attacks against the rival Taliban as well as foreign forces in the country.

“I announce that I will take ... revenge from Mullah Haibatullah’s group,” said Mullah Mansoor. And of his rivals, he said: “It is time for them to pay the price.”

Mullah Mansoor was referring to the current head of the rival Taliban, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious extremist who replaced former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor after he was killed in a US drone strike in May.

The Mahaaz-e-Dadullah group, known for its fighting skills and suicide attacks, virtually disappeared from the Afghan killing fields after the death of Mullah Emdadullah Mansoor’s uncles. Their re-emergence could create a headache for the Taliban as the faction is present in various parts of the Taliban heartland in the south.

“Now we are back on track with our mission” said Mullah Nematullah Samim, Mullah Mansoor’s deputy.

Another would-be suicide bomber, Qari Misbah, said at Monday’s gathering that he had been “waiting for my turn for a long time ago and now it’s the time for me, I can give my body and soul”.

Mullah Samim denied that Mahaaz-e-Dadullah had been uniting forces in Zabul with Afghanistan’s branch of ISIL, which emerged last year, mainly in the country’s east, close the border with Pakistan.

“We don’t want to be weak or depend on others,” he said.

* Associated Press