Afghan government says Taliban chief died two years ago ….reports Asian Lite News
The Afghan government on Wednesday evening said Taliban leader Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan — the news coming ahead of the second round of peace talks between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives in Pakistan on Friday.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan,” President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement.
The confirmation from the Presidential Palace came after sources within the Afghan National Security Council reported earlier in the day about the death of Taliban’s one-eyed leader, who has rarely been seen in public, said Tolo News.
The government said that grounds for the Afghan peace talks “are more paved now than before”.
The statement called on all armed opposition groups to “seize the opportunity and join the peace process”.
Omar, who was Afghanistan’s 11th head of state from 1996 to late 2001, was believed to have been living in Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan.
His regime was called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and recognised by only three nations — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Over the past few days, some Pakistani media channels reported on the death of Omar. These reports started making headlines when debates about Omar’s successor started circulating in the Pakistani media, said Tolo.
Pakistani media reports said Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a close aide of Omar, is planning to replace his leader.
Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Taliban’s military commander, is however reported to be opposing Mansour’s move.
Some Pakistani media reports suggest that Omar’s son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub is himself hoping to succeed his father — a decision that many other senior leaders of the Taliban have reportedly opposed.
Yaqoub is said to have graduated from a madrassa in Karachi.
The discordance over the next leader could leave a negative impact on the ongoing peace talks, say analysts.
With revelations that Omar died two years ago, questions have been raised over who wrote his Eid speech and other messages over the past two years.
This year’s Taliban Eid message, which was reportedly written quite politely compared to previous notes, was welcomed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Omar was wanted by the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice programme since October 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda militants in the years prior to the September 11 attacks.
He is believed to have directed the Taliban insurgency against Afghanistan from Pakistan in the past 14 years, said the Afghan news service.
The Taliban has denied reports of the death of the reclusive, one-eyed leader.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the report as baseless, saying Omar was “alive”.
The first round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government was held in Pakistan on July 7.
The Afghan government was represented by Hekmat Khalil Karzai, the deputy foreign minister, and the Taliban delegation was led by Mullah Abbas Durrani.
The two sides agreed to meet again after Ramadan to find a solution to end the war. US and Chinese representatives were also present at the meeting on ways to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
In the July 15, Eid-eve message that the Taliban attributed to Omar, the militant chief hailed as “legitimate” the peace talks between his group and the Afghan government aimed at ending the 13-year war in Afghanistan.
Omar, who was Afghanistan’s de facto head of state when the Taliban was in power from 1996 to 2001, had earlier disappeared from Quetta.
Omar’s Taliban regime in Afghanistan had sheltered Al Qaeda chief bin Laden prior to the September 11 attack on the US.
That prompted the US to declare war on the Taliban and overthrow its regime with the help of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters then fled to Pakistan in large numbers to regroup.
Omar was earlier widely said to be living in hiding in Quetta, a Pakistani city close to the Afghan border.