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Taliban supreme leader makes first public appearance amid death rumours

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Kabul: Denouncing the false claims of his death, Taliban chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada made a rare public appearance in the southern city of Kandahar, belying widespread rumours after the Taliban’s August takeover of the country, giving rise to the speculation.

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A senior Taliban leader who was present with Akhundzada during the appearance told media the supreme leader, Akhundzada – also known as the leader of the faithful or Amir ul Momineenhad visited Jamia Darul Aloom Hakimia, a religious school in Kandahar on Saturday.

As the Islamist movement unveiled its interim government in September after U.S.-led forces withdrew, the mysterious Akhundzada retained the role he has held since 2016 of the supreme leader, the ultimate authority over the group’s political, religious, and military affairs.

Though some officials say that Akhundzada has made unpublicized public appearances before, this was the first confirmed appearance of a man who has long kept a low public profile.

The only photo media has been able to verify of him was an undated image posted on a Taliban Twitter feed in May 2016.

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This shadowy existence has led to constant speculation about his whereabouts and health.

Previously, the Taliban had not confirmed the death of their founder, and original supreme leader, Mullah Omar, for years.

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