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New Taliban leader says fighting will continue

Published Aug. 2, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — The new leader of the Afghan Taliban vowed to continue his group's bloody, nearly 14-year insurgency in an audio message released Saturday, urging his fighters to remain unified after the death of their longtime leader.

The audio message purportedly from Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor also included comments about the Taliban's nascent peace talks with the Afghan government, though it wasn't clear whether he supported them.

Mansoor took over the Taliban after the group on Thursday confirmed that former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died and said it had elected Mansoor as his successor. The Afghan government announced Wednesday that the reclusive mullah had been dead since April 2013; the Taliban has remained vague on when Omar died.

"We should keep our unity, we must be united, our enemy will be happy in our separation," Mansoor purportedly said in the message. " … This is all our responsibility to carry on jihad until we establish the Islamic state."

The call for unity comes a day after one of Omar's sons, Yacoob, said he opposed Mansoor's election, which was held in the Pakistani city of Quetta. He said the vote took place among a small clique of Mansoor's supporters and demanded a re-election that includes all Taliban commanders.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid sent the audio to journalists Saturday. The Associated Press could not independently verify the identity of the man speaking in the audio clip.