New Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor has vowed to continue the group's 14-year insurgency in Afghanistan in a newly released audio message. Mansoor urged Taliban fighters to remain united in the wake of Mullah Omar's death.
In a 33-minute audio message sent to journalists on Saturday by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, Mullah Omar's successor Mansoor said the militant group's jihad would continue until its goal to implement an Islamic system in Afghanistan was accomplished.
"We should keep our unity, we must be united. Our enemy will be happy in our separation," Mansoor, who is reported to be in his late fifties, said in the message. "This is a big responsibility on us. This is not the work of one, two or three people. This all our responsibility to carry on jihad until we establish the Islamic state," he added.
The authenticity of the audio clip could not be verified, albeit Mujahid deals with all communications for the group.
Mullah Mansoor was confirmed by the militant group as its new leader on Friday. News of Omar's death first broke on Wednesday after officials in the Afghan capital, Kabul, announced that they were investigating claims of the Taliban chief's death.
Omar, who headed the Afghan Taliban since its inception some 20 years ago, had not been seen publicly since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001
Afghanistan's spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, confirmed shortly after that Omar had in fact died in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2013.
Divisions in the Taliban ranks
Some analysts are of the view that Omar's death could push some Taliban commanders toward "Islamic State" (IS) - a Sunni militant group active in Syria and Iraq which is looking to expand its influence to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They also say that Mansoor, unlike Omar, would find it difficult to keep various Taliban factions united.
"The Taliban movement is finding itself in a deep identity crisis. Omar's death has put the whole leadership and organizational structure of the group at stake," said Siegfried O. Wolf, director of research at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF).
Thomas Rüttig, co-director and co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, told DW that Mansoor would not have the same unifying power as Mullah Omar had. "He is not a founding member of the group," he said.
In his audio message, Mansoor also spoke about the peace talks between his group and the Afghan government, however, it was unclear whether he supported the negotiations or not.
The first round of direct peace talks were held on July 8 in the Pakistani city of Murree. The second round was scheduled to take place on July 31 – again in Pakistan – but was called off by the Taliban after the announcement of Omar's death.
shs/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa)