Son of Afghan Taliban founder given top council post

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban appointed the son of its late founder Mullah Mohammad Omar as head of a military commission on Monday and named him and his uncle to its powerful decision-making body, a spokesman said.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. REUTERS/Taliban Handout/Handout via Reuters

Mullah Omar’s eldest son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob and brother Mullah Abdul Manan were both called to the Rahbari Shura or leadership council, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said.

The appointment of two of its founder’s closest relatives would appear to strengthen current Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour, who still faces opposition from some factions within the movement after taking power last year.

Yaqoob, whose family name still carries great prestige among Taliban militants, was appointed head of the Taliban’s military commission for 15 provinces of Afghanistan.

“They accepted their new responsibilities and began their work from Monday,” Ahmadi said.

The elevation of the two men to the Rahbari Shura comes nearly seven months after they dropped their opposition to Mansour’s claim on the leadership following confirmation last year that the one-eyed Mullah Omar had died some two years earlier and that his death had been covered up.

“Mansour had long offered top positions and shura membership to Mullah Abdul Manan and Mullah Yaqoob, however their formal appointment was made on Monday after approval from the shura,” one member of the shura said, asking not to be named.

Members of Mullah Omar’s family had initially claimed the leadership for Yaqoob but agreed to swear allegiance to Mansour, Mullah Omar’s longtime deputy, after he agreed to a list of their demands, Taliban officials said last year.

Mansour’s sudden nomination as leader after some militants believed he had deceived the movement over the death of Mullah Omar caused strong resentment among some Taliban, who also said he was being controlled by Pakistan.

Widespread reports last year suggested Mansour had been badly wounded in a shootout with rivals but the reports were dismissed by the Taliban, who released an audio recording it said was of Mansour to prove he was unharmed.

Writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Roche