- This article is for the Afghan Taliban leader. For the location in Iran also called "Haibatullah", please see Heybatollah.
Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada (Pashto: هبت الله اخونزاده; Arabic: هيبة الله أخوند زاده Haibatullāh Aḫūnd Zādah; born 1961) is the leader of the Taliban, an armed militant group that was the former government of Afghanistan.
هبت الله اخونزاده
An undated photograph of Akhundzada
|Supreme Leader of the Taliban|
|Assumed office |
25 May 2016
|Preceded by||Akhtar Mansour|
|Born||1961 (age 57–58)|
Panjwayi, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
|Years of service||1996–present|
He is a religious scholar, reportedly having issued the majority of the Taliban's fatwas, and was the head of the Taliban's Islamic courts. Unlike many Taliban leaders, Akhundzada is believed to have remained in the country during the War in Afghanistan. He became the leader of the militant group in May 2016 following the death of the previous leader, Akhtar Mansour, in a drone strike. The Taliban also bestowed upon Akhundzada the title Emir-al-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful) that his two predecessors had carried.
Akhundzada was born in 1961 in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar Province in the Kingdom of Afghanistan. A Pashtun, he belongs to the Noorzai clan or tribe. His first name, Hibatullah—which is more commonly used as a girl's name—means "gift from Allah" in Arabic. His father was the imam of their village. Not owning any land or orchards of their own, the family depended on what the congregation paid his father in cash or in a portion of their crops. Akhundzada studied under his father. The family migrated to Quetta after the Soviet invasion and Akhundzada continued his education at one of the first seminaries established in the Sarnan neighborhood.
Role in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (1996–2001)Edit
When the Afghan Taliban captured the capital Kabul in 1996, one of Akhundzada's first jobs was in Farah Province as a member of the Department of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice paramilitary enforcers. He later moved to Kandahar and was made an instructor at the Jihadi Madrasa, the seminary of about 100,000 students that Mullah Omar personally looked after.
Mawlawi Akhundzada was later appointed as Chief Justice of the Shariah Courts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Rather than a warlord or military commander, he has a reputation as a religious leader who was responsible for issuing most of the Taliban's fatwas and settling religious issues among members of the Taliban. Both Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansour are known to have consulted Akhundzada on matters of fatwa. Unlike his predecessors who were educated in Pakistan—and who were also believed to have moved permanently east across the Durand Line after the U.S. invasion in 2001 and during the resulting war—Akhundzada is believed to have lived in Afghanistan throughout the 2001–2016 period with no travel record, though he has close ties with the Quetta-based Taliban Shura.
After his promotion to deputy leader of the Taliban in 2015, Akhundzada put in place a system under which a commission would be formed under the shadow governor in every province that could investigate abusive commanders or fighters, according to Mullah Abdul Bari, a Taliban commander in Helmand.
2012 assassination attemptEdit
According to Mullah Ibrahim, a student of Akhundzada who was interviewed by The New York Times, Akhundzada was the subject of an attempted assassination in Quetta which the Taliban blamed on the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency. "During one of his lectures in Quetta one day about four years ago, a man stood among the students and pointed a pistol at Mawlawi Akhundzada from a close range, but the pistol stuck," Mullah Ibrahim recalled. "He was trying to shoot him, but he failed, and the Taliban rushed to tackle” the man, he said, adding that Mawlawi Akhundzada did not move in the chaos."
Because the reported assassination attempt occurred in Quetta, it contradicts reports that Akhundzada did not travel outside of Afghanistan after September 2001.
As new chief of the TalibanEdit
Akhundzada was appointed as the Taliban supreme commander on 25 May 2016 as the replacement for Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Mansour and a second militant were killed when munitions fired from a drone hit the vehicle in which they were riding. The strike was approved by U.S. President Barack Obama. Akhundzada was previously a deputy for Mansour. According to sources from the Taliban, Mansour had already named Akhundzada as his successor in his will.
A Taliban spokesman said that Sirajuddin Haqqani was named first deputy and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was named second deputy. Mawlawi Akhundzada leads a number of madrassas, or religious schools, in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province.
Analysts believe that there were differences among Taliban ranks on who should be appointed the new chief. The suggested names were Mullah Yaqoob and Sirajuddin Haqqani, the latter being the most prominent member linked with the Haqqani Network. He[who?] was also the most educated, yet he did not complete schooling. He[who?] was home schooled. Akundzada, however, has sustained a neutral identity among the Taliban rank and file. To avoid conflict upon choosing Akhundzada as chief, the Taliban agreed that Yaqoob and Sirajuddin Haqqani will both work as his deputies.
Yousef Ahmadi, one of the Taliban's main spokesmen, stated on 20 July 2017 that Akhundzada's son Abdur Rahman was killed while carrying out a suicide attack on an Afghan military base in Gereshk in Helmand Province. An Afghan government official said that they were investigating the incident but couldn't confirm if he was killed.
In August 2019, Akhunzada's brother Hafiz Ahmadullah was killed in a bomb blast. He succeeded Akhunzada as leader the Khair Ul Madarais mosque, which had served as the main meeting place of the Quetta Shura, after Akhunzada was appointed as the Taliban emir. More of Akhunzada's relatives were later confirmed to have died in the blast as well.
- "Afghan Taliban announce successor to Mullah Mansour". BBC News. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Deobandi Islam: The Religion of the Taliban. U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, 15 October 2001
- "Statement by the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate regarding the martyrdom of Amir ul Mumineen Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour and the election of the new leader". Voice of Jihad. Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "Hibatullah – Meaning of Hibatullah". BabyNamesPedia.com. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "Afghan Taliban says Haibatullah Akhunzada is new leader". Aljazeera. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Dawood Azami (26 May 2016). "Mawlawi Hibatullah: Taliban's new leader signals continuity". BBC News. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- Mashal, Mujib; Shah, Taimoor (July 11, 2016). "Taliban's New Leader, More Scholar Than Fighter, Is Slow to Impose Himself". The New York Times. Kabul. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
- "Obama confirms Afghan Taliban leader's death, says chance for peace". Reuters.com. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "Taliban leader Mansoor killed by U.S. drone". USAToday.com. 2016-05-21. Retrieved 2016-05-22.
- "Profile: New Taliban chief Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada". BBC News. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- Yusufzai, Mushtaq; Rahim, Fazul. "Taliban Confirm Death of Leader in U.S. Strike, Announce Replacement". NBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- O'Donnell, Lynne; Khan, Mirwais. "Afghan Taliban Appoint New Leader After Mansour's Death". ABCNews.com. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "Afghan Taliban appoint Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada as new leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- unattributed reporter of The Daily Times - Daily Times of Pakistan 11.12.2016 Retrieved 2016-12-22
- Ahmad, Jibran (22 July 2017). "Son of Afghan Taliban leader dies carrying out suicide attack". Reuters. Retrieved 23 July 2017.