Afghan officials confirmed Wednesday that the head of the Taliban, known as Mullah Omar, was dead. He has not been seen since 2001.
His death has not yet been independently confirmed by American intelligence sources. This confirmation is the fourth time since 2010 that Mullah Omar’s death has been suspected or confirmed, though reports of his death stretch back more than a decade.
Rumors of Mullah Omar’s death have emerged every few years due to his low profile. But this time, Afghan intelligence officials claim the leader died two or three years ago — and an anonymous ex-Taliban official confirmed the claim.
Officials in Pakistan have dismissed the report as “speculation.” But the Taliban, which has a media-friendly team of spokespeople, says it will make a statement soon.
The Taliban is currently in peace talks with the Afghan government, hoping to end the war that began with the U.S. invasion in 2001. The current administration in Kabul was elected last year. Despite the careful negotiations, the Taliban continues to launch attacks against the government. (RELATED: Afghan Speaker Doesn’t Flinch As Car Bomb ROCKS Parliament [VIDEO])
Mullah Omar was among the earliest members of the Afghan jihadi movement, participating in the resistance against Soviet aggression in the 1980s, and helping bring the Taliban to power in its support. He courted Osama bin Laden’s support for the group and helped sheltered him in Afghanistan. He was the last Taliban head of Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion.
The Taliban has continued to release information in Mullah Omar’s name since his disappearance — including a biography this year in which he is described as “affable” and having “a special sense of humor.” In recent years, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan has struggled to maintain influence as terrorists linked to Islamic State gain prominence in the region.
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