Afghanistan’s supreme leader appeared publicly for only the second time in six years on Sunday, telling worshippers celebrating Eid al-Fitr the Taliban had achieved freedom and security since seizing power last year.
Speaking just days after a bomb ripped through a mosque in Kabul, an atmosphere of heightened security surrounded the man introduced as Hibatullah Akhundzada.
While the number of bombings across the country has dropped since Kabul fell to the Taliban last August, attacks soared over the final two weeks of the fasting month of Ramadan, which ended Saturday for Afghans.
Dozens of civilians have been killed in the primarily sectarian attacks some claimed by the Islamic State group targeting members of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim communities. Friday’s bombing in the capital killed at least 10.
Akhundzada delivered his brief address from one of the front rows of worshippers in Kandahar without turning to face the crowd, according to social media posts.
According to newsmen, Taliban officials did not allow journalists to approach him.