RFE/RL’s correspondent in Peshawar, Pakistan, has obtained video footage that purportedly shows a group of Taliban commanders pledging loyalty to the newly named Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The video shows a group of turbaned and bearded men declaring allegiance to Akhundzada and expressing their agreement with his appointment as the replacement for Mullah Akhtar Mansur, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on May 21.
Akhundzada is not believed to appear in the video.
The men say together: "In the ways of the Prophet, in happiness and in trouble, whether we like it or not, and in the name of the Koran, and in the belief of Ahl as-Sunnah Wal Jamaat (Sunni Islam), we show allegiance to our new leader of the faithful, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada."
It was not clear where or when the video footage was shot, and there was no immediate independent confirmation of the video’s authenticity.
But the declarations of the men in the video match a statement issued on May 26 by a Taliban spokesman who said a group of Taliban commanders had declared their loyalty to Akhundzada.
The appearance of the video comes shortly after a Taliban splinter group headed by Mullah Mohammad Rasul announced that it had rejected Akhundzada as the new Taliban leader.
In a statement quoted by the Afghan news agency Pajhwok on May 26, Rasul’s faction said that “after the death of Mullah Mansur, we called on all Taliban not to repeat past mistakes [and to] appoint a new leader with complete consensus.”
Rasul’s group was one of several Taliban factions that had opposed Mansur’s appointment after news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar surfaced in the summer of 2015.
Rasul also has said he backs Islamic State and Al-Qaeda militants, but only if they stay out of Afghanistan.
With reporting by Pajhwok and dpa