Al Qaida Leader Pledges Allegiance to New Taliban Chief

DUBAI (Reuters) -

Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in an online audio message, pledged allegiance to the new head of the Afghan Taliban in a move that could bolster his accession after the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar.

“We pledge our allegiance … [to the] commander of the faithful, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour,” said Zawahiri, believed to be hiding in a border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan that is a terrorist bastion.

The authenticity of the recording could not be immediately verified, but it had all the stamps of an al-Qaida video.

Divisions within the Taliban have emerged since the news last month of the death of Mullah Omar.

The swift announcement that Mansour, Omar’s longtime deputy, would be the new leader has riled many senior Taliban figures, and Omar’s family said that it did not endorse the move.

Mansour’s position could be shored up by the vote of confidence by al Qaida, the global terrorist group that has maintained ties with the Taliban for almost two decades since the tenure of its founder and late leader Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaida is being challenged by Islamic State for leadership of the global jihadist movement, as determined backers of IS have cropped up in Libya and Yemen this year.