The reclusive Taliban leader, in a rare public appearance on Sunday, hailed security in Afghanistan and the return of an Islamic system after his hardline group seized power last August.
“Congratulations on this victory, freedom and success,” Hibatullah Akhundzada told thousands of worshipers at the central mosque in Kandahar, a city in southern Afghanistan.
He spoke at the start of the three-day Eid celebrations. The second largest city in Afghanistan is known as the birthplace of the Taliban and its de facto power center. This page is quoted from VOA IndonesiaMonday (2/5/2022).
Akhundzada gave his first public speech after the takeover. He made a short speech without turning to the congregation.
Taliban security guards restricted journalists, including the official Afghan television crew, to a corner of the mosque and did not allow them to contact Akhundzada.
An eyewitness told the VOA that the mosque complex was heavily guarded, with machine guns mounted on the mosque’s roof around the dome and the minaret next to the building.
A large number of Taliban soldiers were deployed inside and outside the house of worship and a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter and a Cessna aircraft were hovering over the mosque as Akhundzada gave his speech.
The tight security measures stemmed from a series of bombings over the past two weeks at mosques, schools and other civilian targets in major cities in Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, that killed and injured many.
The victims were mostly members of the minority Shia Muslim community. A number of attacks have been claimed in ISIS-affiliated Afghanistan, ISIS Khorasan Province, known by the abbreviation ISIS-K.