The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, participated in a gathering that took place at a Quranic school, yesterday evening, Saturday, in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, in his first public appearance since he was chosen to lead the movement in 2016.
The Taliban government said in a message today, Sunday, that “the Commander of the Faithful, Sheikh Hebatullah Akhundzada, appeared in a large gathering in the famous Dar Al-Ulum Al-Hakimiya School, and spoke for ten minutes to the brave soldiers and students.” The government attached its announcement with an audio recording to confirm the information.
In this distributed audio recording, Mullah Akhundzadeh’s voice is heard indistinctly as he recites prayers.
A local source stated that Mullah Akhund Zada arrived at this Quranic school in Kandahar in a convoy of two cars under very heavy guard, and no picture was allowed to be taken of him.
With the exception of rare annual messages during Islamic holidays, the Taliban’s supreme leader has been the most secretive about his personality.
Previously, some said he was killed, others that he was in hiding in Pakistan.
Until the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, no one knew his whereabouts, or whether he was still alive.
The Taliban distributed only one picture of him, in which he appears with a gray beard and wearing a turban.
Akhundzada was relatively unknown before he took over the leadership of the movement in 2016, succeeding Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed in a strike by a US drone in Pakistan. He was more interested in judicial and religious matters than military matters.
Mullah Akhundzada, the son of a cleric from Kandahar, the center of the Pashtun lands in southern Afghanistan and the cradle of the Taliban movement, had great influence within the movement before his appointment as its leader. He was responsible for managing its judicial system.