Extremist cleric selected to head Afghan Taliban, rejects peace talks

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An unknown extremist cleric was selected to be the new leader of the Afghan Taliban on Wednesday, days after a U.S. drone strike killed his predecessor.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada immediately vowed there would be no return to peace talks, in an audio recording provided by the group. “No, no we will not come to any type of peace talks,” Hibatullah Akhundzada, said in the recording.

The Taliban called upon all Muslims to support Akhundzada as a matter of religious duty and declared three days of mourning for Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, who was killed on Saturday in a drone attack by the U.S. in Pakistan.

Afghan officials offered again direct negotiations aimed at ending the Taliban’s 15-year insurgency. The slain Mansour was thought to be an obstacle to the peace process.

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President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement that the latest developments brought the Taliban “yet another opportunity to end and renounce violence, lay down their arms, and resume a normal and peaceful life.” Deputy presidential spokesman Zafar Hashemi said if the Taliban decide against joining the peace process, “they will face the fate of their leadership.” – CINEWS

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