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Photograph: EPA/WATAN YAR

The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday confirmed the death of their chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US airstrike, and appointed one of his deputies to be his successor.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada would replace Mansoor as the new head of the insurgent movement, a Taliban statement said.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief of the Haqqani network, and Mullah Yakoub, son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, were appointed deputies to Akhunzada.

A hardline cleric from the southern province of Kandahar, Akhunzada served as deputy to Mansoor since last summer and was the chief justice during the late 1990s Taliban regime in Afghanistan, sources said.

He was chosen by a leadership council at an undisclosed location in south-western Pakistan over the past four days, sources added.

The council considered at least six names for the new leader, sources in Pakistani intelligence and Taliban sources said.    

An unmanned aircraft targeted Mansoor's vehicle in south-western Pakistan on Saturday, killing him and another man.

Mansoor rose to the top position in August, after it emerged that Omar had died in 2013.

Mansoor’s tenure was marred by a rebellion of some commanders, and confusion about whether or not he intended to join peace talks with the Afghan government overseen by global and regional powers.

US President Barack Obama said Mansoor was targeted because he was an obstacle to peace.

But Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan said the slain militant commander was willing to return to the table once he consolidated his control over the group.

Experts said the death of Mansoor has dropped a curtain on Afghan peace initiative for at least another year, as the new leader might need some time to consolidate his power.

"And sending your fighters to the battlefield is the best way to do that," Pakistani security analyst Fida Khan said.     

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