Mullah Omar's family moves to end Taliban leadership dispute

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Former Taliban fighters prepare to hand over weapons as part of a government peace and reconciliation initiative at a ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on February 8, 2015

Former Taliban fighters prepare to hand over weapons as part of a government peace and reconciliation initiative at a ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on February 8, 2015 (AFP Photo/Noorullah Shirzada)

Kabul (AFP) - The family of late Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar has pledged allegiance to new chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour after a secret meeting in which the two sides agreed a power-sharing deal, officials said.

The move aims to end a rift among the Islamist insurgents after they admitted in July that the death of the talismanic one-eyed group founder Omar had been kept secret for two years.

A statement on the group's website issued late Tuesday said Mansour had met Omar's son Yakoub and Omar's brother Mullah Abdul Manan at a gathering attended by several top figures.

"The family of the founder of the Islamic Emirate, His Excellency Mullah Mohamad Omar, on Tuesday declared their allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, the new leader of the Islamic Emirate," the statement said, using the Taliban's official title.

It quoted Yakoub, a former frontrunner to replace Omar as leader, as saying: "We will work to strengthen and unite the Islamic Emirate... and for this purpose we demand all the Mujahideen to work with unity in their ranks and to avoid any difference or conflict."

The meeting was confirmed Wednesday by a senior Afghan Taliban source, who added that Omar's family had pledged their loyalty after winning a number of concessions giving them a greater say in the group's affairs.

These include the election of a new Taliban Shura, or high council, which will be headed by a member of Omar's family -- most likely Yakoub.

The views of disgruntled commanders will be sought in forming the council, which will be given new decision-making powers including appointing Mansour's deputies. Its rulings would be considered as final.

The Taliban leadership meanwhile would also be responsible for the upkeep of Omar's family members.

Despite its internal struggles, and the recent emergence of the rival Islamic State group in the country, the Taliban's 14-year insurgency shows no sign of slackening. Recent overtures by the government of President Ashraf Ghani for a peace settlement have ended in failure.

Some 77,731 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in the first six months of the year to escape the turmoil and war convulsing the country -– more than triple the figure in the same period last year and higher than all previous years since 2001, according to the UN refugee agency.