KABUL: The Afghan Taliban have announced a new leader to replace Mullah Akhtar Mansour who was killed in a US drone strike.

In a statement, the Taliban acknowledged Mansour's death for the first time and named his successor as Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Analysts say it is unlikely the group will change direction under hardline religious scholar Akhundzada.

Last year the Taliban were plunged into turmoil when Mansour replaced the group's founder Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mansour was killed in a strike on his car in Pakistan's Balochistan province on Saturday.

Under his stewardship, the Taliban refused to take part in peace talks.
Instead, militant attacks escalated and became more daring.

Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, a former head of the Taliban courts, was a deputy leader to Mansour.

Akhundzada is understood to run a madrassa - or religious school - and many of the Taliban solider's consider him as both their teacher and religious adviser.

He was said to have been chosen over two key rivals - Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Yakub - due to his religious background.

Akhundzada, believed to be around 60 years of age and a member of the powerful Noorzai tribe, was a close aide to Omar and is from Kandahar, in the south of Afghanistan and the heartland of the Taliban.

An official Taliban account on Twitter posted an undated photograph purporting to be of Akhundzada, informally known as Mullah Haibatullah, with a white turban and long, graying beard.

The post listed his full title as Emir-ul-Momineen Shiekh ul Quran, or "commander of the faithful, scholar of the Koran."

The Taliban movement banned human images for breaching their strict interpretation of Islam when they governed Afghanistan.

Under their rule, women could only appear in public under a heavy veil and accompanied by a male relative, and they were denied a formal education. Public executions were staged and sports banned.