A leadership council of Afghan Taliban is meeting to pick a new leader after chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan on the weekend, sources said on Tuesday.

At least six names were under consideration at the meeting underway since Sunday, Pakistani intelligence sources told dpa.

“They are trying to zero in on one of them,” one official said.

Succession is a delicate issue due to competing factions within the broad insurgent ranks.

It took Mansoor several months to win over various militia when he took reins of Taliban in July, after it was made public that the movement's founder Mullah Omar had died in 2013.    

The leadership council is meeting somewhere in south-western Pakistan, where the top echelon has allegedly been based for more than a decade.

The council of about 20 clerics and commanders has the final say in crucial decisions.

Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is often accused of allowing the Afghan Taliban to operate, and it is expected to influence the choice.  

Mullah Yakoub, the eldest son of Omar, has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the top slot, the official said.

Either in his late 20s or early 30s, Yakoub is a graduate of an Islamic seminary from the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and known to have been close to the ISI.

He currently heads one of the Taliban military commissions in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

For the ISI, Yakoub is not a preferred choice because of his “mental fragility,” but he is being seen as a unifier, the official said.

“He is the one most factions would rally around because of the respect his father had,” he said, “and that’s his utmost quality.

“But he is extremely emotional and that is his downside.”

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief of the Haqqani network, is another probable candidate, the official said.

Heading up the most powerful faction within the Taliban is Haqqani’s advantage, but he has some disadvantages as well.

He has reach as far as Kabul to launch attacks, but not influence among the Taliban ranks beyond his stronghold of the Loya Paktia region near the Pakistani border, the official said.

“It means no across-the-board support.”

Also, Haqqanis are seen too close to Pakistani spy agency.

"All the militants may not appreciate this." 

Another reason the Taliban council could avoid elevating Haqqani is that it would enrage the US.

“It will be like showing the bull a red rag,” the official added.

The US said Mansoor was targeted because he was an obstacle to a nascent peace process in Afghanistan, and warned Taliban leaders to return to talks that broke last year or face the same fate.

Among other contenders are Omar’s younger brother, Mullah Abdul Manan, former Taliban military chief Abdul Qayyum Zakir and Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former education minister.

If the consensus is not reached on one of those candidates, someone else could be appointed.

“He can be a dark horse ... a total surprise,” the official said.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.