The novel coronavirus, officially termed COVID-19, has killed additional than 400,000 people and ravished pretty much all pockets of the world – and it would seem the Taliban top-brass is considerably from immune.

Foreign Plan documented on June 1, quoting unnamed resources, that the group’s chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, most likely died after contracting the coronavirus and trying to get treatment method abroad, perhaps in Russia.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, an Islamic scholar and Taliban deputy, was promoted into the No. 1 position in Could 2016 following former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike inside of Pakistani territory in the Quetta region, in which significantly of the leadership is thought to be based.

Compounding the speculation is that a new “interim” chief has been appointed: none other than Mullah Yaqood, claimed to be in his 30s and the son of the group’s infamous founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

“It is nicely-recognized that Mullah Yaqoop is making an attempt to get much more electrical power in the Taliban, and as the founder’s son, he will have a particular quantity of legitimacy,” famous Luke Coffey, a national safety and protection professional at The Heritage Basis.

Users of a Taliban delegation leaving right after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow in May possibly 2019. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)

Mullah Omar’s loss of life was not verified by the Taliban until eventually 2015, additional than two decades just after he succumbed to tuberculosis.


Reps for the Taliban have been quick to problem a denial and accuse Foreign Plan of disseminating “propaganda.” Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban navy formal, also dismissed the claims to  the publication and alternatively vowed that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” right after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”

“It is not obvious at all if Mullah Akhundzada has died from COVID-19 or if he is gravely ill and little by little recovering. We shouldn’t neglect that the Taliban kept Mullah Omar’s death a key for virtually two and a half yrs, so they have a document of covering up things like this,” Coffey continued. “Their denial could basically be telling the real truth. Hypothetically talking, if Akhundzada did die, it may possibly reward the Taliban to preserve it peaceful until finally a new leader is appointed. Ideal now, the Afghan peace approach is in a sensitive state.”

Afghan stability forces stand guard through a struggle from Taliban fighters in Kunduz province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. The Taliban have introduced a new big-scale assault on a person of Afghanistan’s most important cities, Kunduz, and taken medical center sufferers as hostages, the government claimed Saturday, even as the insurgent group continued negotiations with the United States on ending America’s longest war. (AP Image/Bashir Khan Safi)

Yet inside of the circle of Afghan intelligence and superior-ranking federal government resources, the destiny of Akhundzada also continues to be unclear.

“No person amongst the Taliban talks about him currently being dead,” reported one previous governing administration official, who was not licensed to talk on the history.

Others affirmed that they simply just did not know and that the make any difference remained less than investigation.

On the other hand, deepening the confusion is that an additional very well-placed Afghan formal explained to Fox Information that there is intelligence that Akundzada was killed months in the past in neighboring Quetta, Pakistan – less than opaque situations – but that it was kept quiet.


In spite of the militant chief’s position remaining murky, a number of resources explained to Fox News that the contagion has wracked havoc among the all ranks of the insurgency, with a multitude of infections and an not known selection of fatalities. In accordance to Foreign Plan, Akhundzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network regarded for its brutal practices and extortion procedures, also contracted the condition.

FILE – In this June 16, 2018 file image, Taliban fighters collect with citizens to celebrate a three-working day stop fireplace marking the Islamic getaway of Eid al-Fitr, in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. Numerous Afghans see Saturday’s predicted signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace offer with a weighty dose of well-acquired skepticism. They have invested many years residing in a place at war — some their total life — and marvel if they can ever get to a point out of peace. (AP Photograph/Rahmat Gul, File)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Condition Division is surging forward with its commitments to the controversial U.S.-Taliban peace offer, inked in February soon after far more than two and 50 % decades of negotiations in Doha, Qatar. The terms of the agreement include things like releasing thousands of Taliban customers from jails across Afghanistan, as properly as a drawdown of the U.S. troop existence in an eventual conclude to the virtually 19-calendar year conflict.

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And Monthly bill Roggio, senior fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and editor of the Extensive War Journal, concurred that no a single really understands for positive if Akhundzada “is alive or useless” but is confident that help for the accord is likely to remain high no matter of who is heading the Taliban.

“This is not a peace offer. It is a withdrawal offer. Mullah Haibatullah’s death, if legitimate, will have no impact on the withdrawal deal,” Roggio additional. “The offer is hugely favorable to the Taliban, as it secures the withdrawal of U.S. forces without the Taliban getting to offer up a one concession. The Taliban is not obligated to denounce Al Qaeda, adhere to a ceasefire, negotiate with the govt, or respect women of all ages and minority rights. Any long run Taliban emir will gladly operate to implement the deal.”

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