AP

Taliban supreme leader prays for Afghanistan’s quake victims

Jun 30, 2022, 12:26 PM | Updated: Jul 1, 2022, 3:47 am

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban’s supreme leader offered prayers Friday for Afghanistan’s earthquake victims during a speech to Islamic clerics in Kabul.

The tremor in June killed more than 1,000 people in the eastern part of the country. State radio aired Haibatullah Akhundzada’s speech live Friday from the gathering in Kabul, where thousands of Islamic clerics and tribal elders are together for the first time since seizing power in Afghanistan in August. Women were not allowed to attend.

Akhundzada’s appearance added symbolic heft to the meeting and the decisions the group is considering about Afghanistan’s future. The Taliban are under international pressure to be more inclusive as they struggle with Afghanistan’s humanitarian crises.

The powerful earthquake killed more than 1,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, igniting yet another crisis for the struggling country and further underscoring the Taliban’s limited capabilities and isolation. Overstretched aid groups already keeping millions of Afghans alive rushed supplies to the quake victims, but most countries responded tepidly to Taliban calls for international help.

In his hour-long speech, Akhundzada called the Taliban takeover a “victory for the Muslim world.”

He added that, “Afghan businessmen should return and invest in the country.”

Akhundzada has been the spiritual chief of the Islamist movement but has remained a reclusive figure.

He rose from low-profile to leader of the Taliban in a swift transition of power after a 2016 U.S. drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

After being appointed leader, Akhundzada secured the backing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who showered the cleric with praise, calling him “the emir of the faithful.”

The endorsement by Osama bin Laden’s heir helped seal his jihadist credentials with the Taliban’s longtime allies.

Akhundzada told the gathered clerics and leaders that during the bloody takeover, the Taliban “never intended to fight the Afghans” allied with the U.S.-led force. “We fought them because they became the shield of the invaders,” he said.

The Taliban, who have kept a complete lock on decision-making since taking over the country, touted the gathering in the capital of Kabul as a forum to hear a range of voices on issues facing Afghanistan.

But all those who addressed the assembly — and, it appeared, the overwhelming majority of attendees — were Taliban officials and supporters, mostly Islamic clerics.

Women were not allowed to attend, although media reports suggested that the reopening of the girls’ schools would be discussed. The Taliban’s supreme leader earlier this year banned girls after sixth grade from attending school and issued a decree requiring women in public to cover themselves completely, except for their eyes.

The Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi told state broadcaster RTA on Wednesday that male delegates would represent women. “When their sons are in the gathering it means that they are also involved,” he said.

The gathering was held in the Loya Jirga Hall of Kabul’s Polytechnic University. A Loya Jirga is a gathering of tribal leaders and prominent figures, a traditional Afghan way for local leaders to have their grievances heard by rulers. However, the Taliban notably did not call the gathering a Loya Jirga, instead titling it “the Great Conference of Ulema,” the term in Islam for religious scholars and clerics.

The international cut-off of Afghanistan’s financing has deepened the country’s economic collapse and fueled its humanitarian crises. Millions in the country rely on international aid to have enough food to live.

The meeting comes as finance and central bank officials from the Taliban-led government are meeting with U.S. officials in Qatar to discuss economic and aid issues following last week’s earthquake.

The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that senior Biden administration officials are working with the Taliban leadership on a mechanism to allow Afghanistan’s government to use its central bank reserves to deal with the country’s severe hunger and poverty crises while erecting safeguards to ensure the funds are not misused.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: Former President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche appear at Manhattan criminal in Ne...

Associated Press

Police to review security outside courthouse hosting Trump trial after man sets himself on fire

Crews rushed away a person after fire was extinguished outside where jury selection was taking place in the Donald Trump criminal trial.

3 days ago

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn-in before the House Committee on Hom...

the MyNorthwest Staff with wire reports

Senate dismisses two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security secretary, ends trial

The Senate dismissed impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as Republicans pushed to remove him.

5 days ago

idaho gender-affirming care...

Associated Press

Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The Supreme Court is allowing Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth while lawsuits over the law proceed.

6 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press in Manhattan state court in New York City ...

Associated Press

Trump’s hush money trial gets underway; 1st day ends without any jurors selected

The historic hush money trial of Donald Trump got underway Monday with the arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the case.

7 days ago

Photo: Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in cent...

Tia Goldenberg and Josef Federman, The Associated Press

Israel is quiet on next steps against Iran — and on which partners helped shoot down missiles

On Sunday, Israel's leaders credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct attack from Iran.

8 days ago

Early phases of Iran's drone attack against Israel. (Photo: Getty Images)...

Associated Press

The Latest | Iran launches its first direct military attack against Israel

Iran launched its first full-scale military attack against Israel on Saturday, sending drones toward Israel.

9 days ago

Taliban supreme leader prays for Afghanistan’s quake victims