Mullah Akhtar, Taliban
A car is seen on fire at the site of a drone strike believed to have killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar in southwest Pakistan Reuters

The Afghan Taliban released a statement on Wednesday (25 May) confirming the death of their leader Mullah Mansoor, with the extremist group also announcing the appointment of Mansoor's successor, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada.

According to Khamma Press, the statement also revealed that Haqqani terrorist network leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's son, Mulah Yaqoob, have been appointed as deputy supreme leaders of the group.

"Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura (supreme council), and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him," the Taliban said.

Haqqani and Yaqoob were earlier predicted as the top two choices to succeed Mullah Mansoor, before Akhundzada was decided upon. The Taliban's leadership council started discussions for the appointment of a new leader for their group just one day after a US drone killed Mansoor near the Balochistan province of Pakistan on Saturday 21 May.

In a statement shortly after the drone attack, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mansour had posed "a continuing, imminent threat to US personnel".

The US Department of Defense first informed of the attack on Mansour and the news was confirmed by Afghan security institutions including the National Directorate of Security. On 24 May, Taliban stated that despite the death of their leader, their insurgency mission would continue on track.

Who is Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada?

The new leader of the Taliban has held a place of importance within the group as a senior religious leader. He was responsible for a number of the fatwas created by the militant group which have provided religious justification for military and terrorist operations.

Despite having spent most of his life in Afghanistan, according to experts, he has close links with the Taliban's arm in Pakistan.

According to Al Jazeera, Akhundzada was highly respected by former Taliban commander Mullah Omar who "referred to him as teacher". He is a member of the respected Noorzai tribe in Kandahar. The group is hopeful that his strong religious and political connections will help unite them once again.