Taliban supreme leader Shaikh Hibatullah Akhundzada has made his first public appearance at an Islamic seminary in Kandahar province where he delivered a brief speech, this has since quelled reported that he was dead.
The 10-minute audio clip attributed to Akhundzada was widely shared by Taliban social media users.
In it, he focused on spiritual issues. It does not include any political content.
Two Taliban officials, Inamullah Habibi Samangani and Hafiz Saidullah told dpa on Sunday, that the gathering took place late on Saturday and that the audio is authentic.
However, no pictures or videos of the gathering have been shared yet.
If true, this would be the first time that Akhundzada appeared in public in Afghanistan, which might quell rumours that he might be dead.
Taliban members call their supreme leaders “amir al-mu’minin,” an Arabic title that translates as “commander of the faithful”. This Arabic title was repeated in the audio note.
Akhundzada has been the Taliban leader since 2016, ever since Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in a US drone strike.
Reportedly, Akhundzada lived in the Pakistani city of Quetta after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
He is said to have moved to his home province of Kandahar following the withdrawal of the international forces from Afghanistan in August.
For a long time, there were rumours that Akhundzada had died of Covid-19. Others speculated that he has died in an explosion.
The rumours further heightened when Akhundzada remained out of public sight after the Taliban took power and formed their new government.