Taliban supreme leader makes rare public appearance on Eid – Times of India


NEW DELHI: The Taliban’s highly private supreme leader made a rare public appearance on Wednesday, leading thousands of worshippers in prayers for Eid al-Fitr, as confirmed by an Afghan government spokesperson. Hibatullah Akhundzada, who took over leadership of the Taliban in 2016 and guided the group back to power following the US troop withdrawal in 2021, has seldom been seen in public.
The prayer session in Kandahar’s largest mosque was led by Akhundzada, according to Taliban government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid. The service, held early in the morning, was attended by a large number of people in the province considered the Taliban’s birthplace.
Although worshippers did not physically see Akhundzada deliver his speech, a voice over a loudspeaker introduced the sermon as his own words, as reported by an AFP.
The mosque courtyard was filled with thousands of people, with strict security measures in place to prevent access to the main worship hall. Akhundzada is known to maintain a low profile, with only one known photograph of him in existence. The press is typically not allowed to cover his public appearances, and Afghan attendees are prohibited from taking photos or videos on their phones.
In a previous public appearance in Kandahar during last year’s Eid al-Fitr, Akhundzada extended congratulations to Afghans on their “victory, freedom, and success”. Governed by Akhundzada’s decrees from Kandahar, the Taliban has enforced strict Islamic laws since taking control after the collapse of the previous government.
In Kabul, Eid al-Fitr celebrations under Taliban rule were held under tight security, with additional checkpoints and deployment of police and Taliban security forces. Worshippers flocked to mosques, despite restrictions on recording services imposed by security forces.
Last month, Kandahar city experienced a deadly suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group, with conflicting reports on the casualties. A hospital source reported 20 fatalities, while Taliban officials stated three deaths.
Kabul’s religious affairs ministry instructed imams to read a message from Akhundzada during the Wednesday prayers, emphasizing the importance of respecting sharia law and fostering good relations with the international community.


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