Taliban Supreme Leader Makes Rare Visit to Kabul

Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. (AP)
Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. (AP)
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Taliban Supreme Leader Makes Rare Visit to Kabul

Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. (AP)
Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. (AP)

Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, who has been rarely seen outside his reclusive compound in Kandahar, made a rare visit to Afghanistan’s capital to meet with the country’s senior officials, a government website said Friday.

The organization's El Emara website published video clips of Akhundzada giving a speech in front of the 34 provincial governors on Thursday at the Interior Ministry.

The leader, of whom only one photo has been publicly circulated, emphasized "unity and harmony," according to the website.

"Obedience was highlighted as a divine obligation," it said, adding that the implementation of Islamic Sharia law and principles "should take precedence over personal interests."

The purpose of the visit was likely about "enforcing internal discipline and unity," a Western diplomat told AFP, adding that it could be motivated by the unrest in Badakhshan in eastern Afghanistan.

Witnesses reported that Taliban forces opened fire to disperse villagers protesting against poppy clearing — a lucrative crop banned by Akhundzada in April 2022.

Experts believe that Akhundzada is creating a rift between the two main Taliban camps in power: Kandahar, the movement's southern stronghold where the supreme commander runs the country by decree, and Kabul, where the supposedly less strict government is based.

"Whenever you see cracks or disagreements, then you have Kandahar stepping in reminding everyone and enforcing that (unity) as well," the diplomat added.

The supreme commander has visited Kabul only once since the Taliban's return to power in mid-August 2021 and has rarely spoken since taking office in 2016.

Last March, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban government has said it is determined to enforce the Islamic criminal justice system, including the public stoning of women for adultery.



Iran Top Court Overturns Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence, Lawyer Says

People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
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Iran Top Court Overturns Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence, Lawyer Says

People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)

Iran's supreme court has overturned Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi's death sentence on charges linked to the country's 2022-23 period of unrest, his lawyer wrote in a post on the X social media platform on Saturday.

"The death sentence of #Toomaj_Salehi was overturned and based on the appeal decision ...of the Supreme Court, the case will be referred to (another) branch for consideration," attorney Amir Raisian wrote on X.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the ruling.

Salehi's songs supported protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian woman arrested for allegedly wearing an "improper" hijab.