The Taliban's acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, a wanted global terrorist and one of the country's most senior officials, has praised suicide attackers and promised their relatives money and land.
Haqqani, the leader of the notorious Haqqani network and listed as a terrorist by the United States with a $10 million bounty on his head, met with the relatives of several "matyrs" on October 18 at the upscale Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, ministry spokesman Saeed Khosty said.
Khosty and pro-Taliban accounts on Twitter posted photos purportedly showing Haqqani praying and embracing men at the meeting, although he appears blurred in the pictures or is shown only from behind.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Haqqani welcomed the suicide bombers' families and paid tribute to the deceased as "martyrdom seekers" and "holy warriors."
"Haqqani praised the jihad and sacrifice of the martyrs and mujahedin" referring to them as the "heroes of Islam and the country," Afghan state broadcaster RTA reported, adding that he promised $125 and a plot of land for each family.
The Haqqani network, a feared militant group associated with the Taliban, is responsible for deadly attacks on U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan and the internationally backed government that collapsed in August following a blitz Taliban offensive.
Thousands of Afghans were killed in suicide attacks carried out by the network during the past two decades.
In January 2018, the Intercontinental Hotel in which Haqqani held the meeting was stormed by Taliban gunmen who killed 40 people, including 14 foreigners, and took dozens hostage.
This story is based on reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.