Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting minister of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan and a longtime leader of the so-called Haqqani network with a US terrorist bounty on his head, has appeared in front of the media for the first time, RFE/RL reported.
Haqqani, nicknamed Khalifa, attended a graduation ceremony in Kabul for hundreds of newly-trained Afghan police on Saturday.
He also addressed the gathering, saying the fundamentalist militant group is committed to the Doha agreement signed with the United States in 2020 that paved the way to a pullout of US-led international troops that culminated in late August last year.
Haqqani told the graduating cadets that the world faces no threat from Afghanistan, the report said.
Haqqani has repeatedly praised suicide and some of the most notorious attacks on civilians and departed US forces since the Taliban-led administration took control of Kabul in mid-August last year.
He had never allowed himself to be filmed, and an FBI notice of $10 million bounty on his head for alleged terrorist activities featured only a blurry image of a bearded man mostly shrouded by a blanket.
Previously, he has only been photographed clearly from behind — even since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last August, Dawn reported.
“For your satisfaction and for building your trust… I am appearing in the media in a public meeting with you,” he said in a speech at the parade.
“I appeared in front of the media for the first time because of your credibility and to value you,” he told police officials.
Pictures of Haqqani were being widely shared on social media on Saturday by Taliban officials who had previously only posted photographs that didn’t show his face or those in which it had been digitally blurred.
At the police parade, Haqqani was dressed like many of the other senior Taliban officials — very heavily bearded and wearing a black turban and white shawl, Dawn reported.
Haqqani was among the first senior leaders who had entered Kabul in August last year but kept a low profile over the past few months. He would meet foreign dignitaries and Taliban officials but photographs from such meetings would always be blurred. He once appeared on a television interview but his face was not shown.
Haqqani heads his own group called the Haqqani network, which has been designated a terror outfit by the US for carrying out several major attacks on foreign and Afghan forces during the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban insist that there is no separate faction within the group.