Conflicts & War

The key Taliban Islamists set to form Afghan government

Kabul, Aug 18 (EFE).- The Taliban Islamist militia is set to form the government in Afghanistan after it swiftly marched into the capital city of Kabul, causing President Ashraf Ghani to secretly flee the country.

However, during the last 20 years of the Afghan war, most of the leaders of the Pashtun-dominated extremist group have been elusive to an extent that many of them have never been seen in public.

Following are some of the top leaders of the Taliban, founded in the 1990s during the Afghan civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989:

1. Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada

He has been the supreme leader of the ideologically strident Islamist militant group since 2016, when his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in an American drone attack.

The 60-year-old soft-spoken leader owes his popularity in the group to his deep understanding of Islamic law and jurisprudence. He headed the judiciary during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

Only a few images of the leader with a long-flowing beard from the ethnic Pashtun background make rounds on the web. He is more identifiable with his annual audio or written messages the Taliban used to publish on the eve of the Eid holidays.

2. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

He is one of the known faces of the Islamist movement and is likely to be the new ruler of Afghanistan in whatever form the Taliban structures its government.

Baradar, 53, is the Taliban co-founder and was once the man Friday of Mullah Omar, the founding head of the movement.

His prominence in the world outside of the Taliban is mainly due to his active role in peace negotiations with the United States in Doha where he headed the political office of the group.

Baradar was arrested in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in 2010. But the US is said to have requested his release to initiate the Afghan peace process.

The de facto Taliban leader arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday, days before the Islamists swept to power.

3. Sirajuddin Haqqani

He is the leader of one of the most dreaded Islamist militant webs, called the Haqqani Network, formed by his father Jalaluddin Haqqani to fight the Soviets.

The Haqqani network, a US-designated terror group, became a Taliban partner and fought alongside it when the Islamist group rode to power in 1996.

Sirajuddin, 48, is known for his military acumen and war strategies.

He is widely identified as the mastermind of some of the deadliest terror attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

He is the deputy head of the Taliban and manages his network of militant groups with their alleged bases in Pakistan.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has a couple of his sketches on its most-wanted terrorist list. His face is largely unseen.

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