The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has pledged allegiance to the new head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansoor, whose appointment has caused divisions within the Taliban.
The pledge, posted in an online audio message, could bolster Mansoor’s accession after the death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar.
“We pledge our allegiance [to the] commander of the faithful, Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansoor, may God protect him,” said al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be hiding in a border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“As leader of the al-Qaeda organisation for jihad, I offer our pledge of allegiance, renewing the path of Sheikh Osama and the devoted martyrs in their pledge to the commander of the faithful, the holy warrior Mullah Omar,” Zawahiri said.
Al Jazeera has been unable to verify the authenticity of the recording.
Divisions within the Taliban have emerged since the news last month of the death of Mullah Omar, who founded the group in the 1990s.
Omar’s death in 2013 had been kept secret for two years.
Al Jazeera was told the Taliban Supreme Council (Shura Council) was not consulted before the appointment of Omar’s longtime deputy as the new leader, causing friction within the group.
Many senior Taliban figures were riled, and Omar’s family said earlier this month that it did not endorse the move. Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoub, had been a key rival of Mansoor’s for control of the group.
The head of the Taliban’s political office, Syed Tayyeb Agha, also resigned, days after the group announced the appointment of a new chief.
Mansoor’s position could be shored up by the vote of confidence by al-Qaeda, which has maintained ties with the Taliban for almost two decades since the tenure of its founder and late leader Osama bin Laden.
Mullah Mansoor has been part of the Taliban’s core leadership since the formation of the group under Omar’s tutelage.