A rare public appearance of the Supreme Commander of Afghanistan in Kandahar

Hibatullah Akhundzadeh

Afghanistan's supreme leader, Hebatullah Akhundzada, appeared in public on Sunday for only the second time in six years, telling worshipers celebrating Eid al-Fitr that the Taliban had achieved freedom and security since seizing power last year.

Akhundzadeh's speech comes just days after a bomb exploded in a mosque in Kabul.

Tight security surrounded the man, who was presented as Hebatullah Akhundzadeh.

"Congratulations on victory, freedom and success. Congratulations on this security and the Islamic system," he told thousands of worshipers at the Eid Kah mosque in the southern city of Kandahar, the center of power.

Akhundzada delivered his brief speech from a front line of worshipers in Kandahar without turning around to meet the crowd, according to social media posts.

An AFP correspondent reported that Taliban officials prevented journalists from approaching him.

Two helicopters hovered over the mosque throughout the two-hour event.

This is the second known public appearance of Akhundzadeh since he took over the leadership of the Taliban in 2016.

In October, he visited the Dar al-Ulum al-Hakimiya mosque in Kandahar, according to an audio recording shared by Taliban accounts on social media.

Akhundzada's rare appearance fueled speculation about his role in the new Taliban government, which was formed after the movement took control of Kabul on August 15, and even rumors spread of his death.

His public attendance was largely limited to the dissemination of messages during the holidays, and Akhundzadeh is believed to spend most of his time in Kandahar.

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