Terrorist with $10m bounty on his head made interior minister as Taliban announce new government

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund will head up the new government, Taliban confirm

Terrorist with $10m bounty on his head made interior minister as Taliban announce new government

A wanted terrorist with a $10m US-bounty on his head has been made Afghanistan’s interior minister as the Taliban announced a caretaker government packed with the movement’s old guard.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the movement’s deputy leader, is accused of overseeing some of the worst atrocities of the militants’ insurgent campaign, but will now take control of a key ministry in the Taliban administration.

His position was announced as the Taliban set out a cabinet entirely staffed by the group’s members despite vows to set up a broad-based new government.

The 33-strong line-up contains no women and is dominated by Taliban stalwarts from the Pashtun ethnic group.

The administration will be led by interim prime minister Mullah Hasan Akhund, a low-profile Taliban veteran who was a close associate and political advisor to Mullah Omar, the founder of the movement and its first supreme leader.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoob, was named as defence minister.

Terrorist with $10m bounty on his head made interior minister as Taliban announce new government
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) led the Taliban delegation in talks in Doha CREDIT: Hussein Sayed /AP

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had led talks with the United States and signed the deal that led to America’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan, will be one of two deputies to Akhund.

It is not clear at this stage what role Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban supreme leader, will play in the new government.

Akhundzada has never been seen in public, but he released a statement in English following the announcement of the new acting government, calling for all members to uphold sharia law.

“I assure all the countrymen that the figures will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and sharia law in the country,” the statement read.

But it is the appointment of Mr Haqqani, who carries a $10m State Department reward for information leading to his arrest, that is most likely to cause alarm.

Terrorist with $10m bounty on his head made Interior Minister as Taliban announce new government
Sirajuddin Haqqani, new Taliban minister for the interior in Afghanistan, on the FBI Most Wanted list

The head of the notorious Haqqani network faction for more than a decade, he is blamed for indiscriminate bombings and assaults which have killed hundreds of civilians. He reportedly oversaw a 2018 suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed 103 people using an explosives-filled ambulance. 

Analysts said it was difficult to see how the cabinet choice would reassure international donors enough to resume frozen foreign aid which is desperately needed to keep the Afghan government running.

Weeda Mehran, from the University of Exeter, said: “It is not inclusive at all. There are only a few non-Pashtun members and also I shouldn’t be surprised but it’s still a shock to see Sirajuddin Haqqani there.”

There was also no indication of when the interim government would expire, or what it would be replaced with.

Ms Mehran said she believed the Taliban would simply try to wait out their international critics.

Asked why the government did not appear to be inclusive – with no women on the list – Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “The cabinet is not complete, it is just acting.”

“We will try to take people from other parts of the country.”

The cabinet also revived the notorious ministry for vice and virtue which was notorious under their 1990s government for enforcing restrictions on women and men through public beatings and imprisonment.

The department beat women publicly for crimes including showing their wrists, hands, or ankles, and not being accompanied by a close male relative.

Meanwhile, judges and officials have told the Telegraph that Taliban courts would resurrect the practice of chopping the hands off convicted thieves.

The punishment which became notorious under the Taliban’s 1990s emirate was a necessary part of Islamic law and would be revived now they had taken over the country, they said.

Officials did not comment on whether other punishments including public executions and stonings would be revived. 

The Taliban on Tuesday faced protests in Kabul and Herat and used gunfire to break them up.

Two people were shot dead and eight wounded in a protest in the western Afghan city of Herat on Tuesday, a doctor said.

The bodies were brought to the city’s central hospital from the site of the protest, the doctor, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisals, told AFP.

“They all have bullet wounds,” he said.

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