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Afghan Taliban's new chief replaces 24 'shadow' officials

Afghan Taliban's new chief replaces 24 'shadow' officials

The leader of the Afghan Taliban recently replaced "shadow" governors in 16 of the country's 34 provinces, as he sought to consolidate his influence over the insurgency, senior figures in the movement said this week. The list of 24 was verified by official spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid and two other Taliban figures in Qatar and Afghanistan.

Some of the titles reflect the Taliban's hierarchical organization, such as "director of technical/weapons funding and support", a job that went to a commander Alladin Agha, formerly in charge of training camps for fighters. "Agha will be providing technical support to carry out spectacular attacks within cities," said another Taliban official, an envoy living outside Afghanistan.

However, there are no changes to the Rahbari Shura, a central leadership council, or in Helmand province, where the Taliban control large swathes of territory.The Taliban envoy said relations between Haibatullah and Helmand shadow governor Manan Akhond were tense. Taliban spokesman Mujahid denied any disharmony among the ranks and said the replacements were a routine reshuffle.

"This is quite common, and the leadership make changes from time to time," he said. One success for Haibatullah, sources said, was in naming Baz Mohammad as shadow governor for Wardak province, located to the west of the capital.

Mohammad was part of the splinter group that rebelled against Mansour when he assumed leadership in 2015, after it was revealed that he had kept secret the death of Taliban founder and longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar for two years. "Mullah Baz Mohammad is very important," the Taliban envoy said. "He is from Haibatullah's own Noorzai tribe, so his return will strengthen Haibatullah's position."