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Taliban supreme leader makes rare visit to Afghan capital

By AFP

May 17, 2024 10:17 PM


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The shadowy supreme leader of the Taliban authorities made a rare visit to Afghanistan's capital, a government website said Friday, leaving his reclusive compound in Kandahar to meet with the country's senior officials.

It comes after a string of small-scale clashes between farmers and Taliban anti-narcotic units tasked with destroying poppy fields, and flash floods that have killed hundreds.

Hibatullah Akhundzada gave a speech in front of the 34 provincial governors on Thursday at the Interior Ministry, the Taliban website Al Emarah said.

The leader emphasised "unity and harmony", according to a summary of the speech posted to the website on Friday.

"Obedience was highlighted as a divine obligation," it said, adding that the implementation of Islamic Sharia law and principles "should take precedence over personal interests".

The appointment of officials on the basis of "favouritism or personal relationships" was also to be avoided.

Akhundzada, of whom only one photo has been publicly circulated, rarely appears in public, ruling by decree from a secretive compound in the southern city of Kandahar.

His cabinet, however, sits in the capital Kabul, from where they implement his decisions.

The purpose of the visit was likely about "enforcing internal discipline and unity", a Western diplomat told AFP, adding that it could be motivated by the unrest in Badakhshan in eastern Afghanistan.

Witnesses reported that Taliban forces opened fire to disperse villagers protesting against poppy clearing -- a lucrative crop banned by Akhundzada in April 2022.

Several people died in one of the clashes, a Taliban official said at the time.

The Afghan authorities have also had to repress demonstrations by settled nomads in the province of Nangarhar and are faced with regular deadly attacks from the Islamic State group, particularly in Kabul.

"Whenever you see cracks or disagreements, then you have Kandahar stepping in reminding everyone and enforcing that (unity) as well," the diplomat added.


AFP


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