Mullah Omar’s son and brother, both who previously opposed the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour to serve as the new leader of the Taliban, have changed their minds and sworn allegiance to Mansour, according to the Taliban.
The jihadist group released an Arabic-language statement on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda website, claiming that Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, a brother of Mullah Omar, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, Omar’s eldest son, had sworn allegiance to Mansour after meeting with the new Taliban emir. The meeting “was attended by a large number of sheikhs and scholars valued and senior Islamic Emirate officials,” according to the statement.
Mullah Manan and Mullah Yacoob called on all Muslims and “all the mujahideen brothers … especially those who delayed the oath of allegiance [to Mansour] because of delay allegiance of our family” to swear fealty to the group’s new emir.
Manan and Yacoub’s pledge to Mansour closes a major rift that existed within the Afghan Taliban after Omar’s death was announced on July 31. Omar died at a hospital in Karachi in April 2013, and the Taliban and Omar’s family concealed his death as they feared it would cause divisions at a crucial time, when US forces began to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Reports from the region indicated that Manan and Yacoub initially did not approve of the way that Mansour was chosen to lead the Taliban.
“I stand with my nephew [Yacoub],” Manan said immediately after Omar’s death was announced, according to CBS News. “There should be a (grand council) so everyone has a chance to choose their own leader. I do not accept this selection of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor because only a few chose him.”
Yacoub is rumored to have sought to replace his father as the emir of the group.
The Taliban’s announcement that Manan and Yacoub have now accepted Mansour’s leadership took place just two days after a Yacoub released an audiotape where he discussed his father’s death and his position on the leadership dispute.
Yacoub confirmed that his family was aware of Omar’s death and was complicit in hiding it from the Taliban and the world. He also denied rumors that Omar was assassinated, and said he died of natural causes.
“I wanted to assure you that he died a natural death,” Yacoub said, according to Dawn. “We made enquiries from the doctors, it seems he was suffering from HCV [Hepatitis C].”
Had Yacoub attempted to continue his dispute with Mansour, he may not have actively sought to dispel rumors that Omar was assassinated.
In what is perceived by some to be a slight to Mansour, Yacoub also said that his father “had not appointed any one as his successor.” But the Taliban do not allow their leader to choose his successor. The emir of the group is instead chosen by the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s top leadership council. According to the Taliban, the shura met and chose Mansour.
Yacoub also hinted in the Sept. 13 audiotape that he was prepared to reconcile with Mansour and the Taliban leadership.
“If unity can return with my death, I am willing to carry out suicide,” or a suicide attack, he said. “We are ready for whatever order the council gives us. We are ready to work in any capacity, whether on a high level or a lower level.”
With Mullah Omar’s family back in the fold, the main challenge to Mansour’s leadership comes from Mullah Mansour Dadullah, the military commander who was expelled from the Taliban by Omar in late 2008. Dadullah is holed up in Zabul province and has been besieged by the Taliban. The Islamic State, which is attempting to recruit disaffected Taliban commanders, is said to be courting Dadullah.