Taliban publishes rare audio message from supreme leader

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The Taliban have published a rare audio message from their supreme leader, who says justice is an instrument for the Afghan government’s survival.

Hibatullah Akhundzada, an Islamic scholar, almost never appears in public and hardly ever leaves the Taliban heartland in southern Kandahar province.

He surrounds himself with other religious scholars and allies who oppose education and work for women. Only one known photo of him, years old, exists.

Akhundzada has travelled to Kabul only once since the August 2021 Taliban takeover to give a speech to a gathering of clerics, although he was not shown in media coverage at the closed event and appeared with his back to the audience.

Afghanistan Ramadan
A Taliban stands guard in Kabul (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

“But if there is no justice, and there is oppression, selfishness, murders and revenge, as well as killings without courts, this country will be ruined,” Akhundzada can be heard saying.

“This oppression can be prevented through the right decision of religious scholars and its proper implementation by the government.”

The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify that the voice on the audio message is Akhundzada’s.

Mujahid gave no information in his tweet about where the message was recorded, when, or the reason for releasing the message.

In January, Mujahid tweeted that Akhundzada met religious scholars from different provinces. He also tweeted about the leader’s February meeting with commanders and other high-ranking security officials.

Akhundzada has appeared to take a stronger hand in directing domestic policy. It was on his orders, from Kandahar, that the Taliban barred women and girls from universities and schools after the sixth grade and stopped Afghan women from working at NGOs and the UN.

He was named Taliban leader in 2016 after a US airstrike killed his predecessor Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in Pakistan.

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