Afghan authorities have announced a press conference on Mullah Omar to respond to the rumors, Reuters learned from an unnamed official not authorized to speak on the matter. No further details were provided.
The Pakistani government, for its part, claims the Taliban leader died some two years ago from tuberculosis.
The information appears to be backed up by a former Afghan Taliban minister and top councilman, who spoke with the Express Tribune on condition of anonymity: “Mullah Omar died two years and four months ago, [due] to tuberculosis. He has been buried on the Afghan side of the border,” he said. “Mullah Omar’s son identified the body of his father.”
The Afghani Khaama Press news agency reports that the issue of Mullah Omar’s possible death was discussed by the Afghan Cabinet following confirmation from Pakistani authorities.
The Afghan Taliban are not divulging any information, but have said they will release a statement in due course. The militant group’s representatives have recently been in talks with top Afghan officials for the first time in Pakistan.
This is not the first time the death of Mullah Omar has been reported.
Earlier a Taliban splinter group, the Afghanistan Islamic Movement Fidai Mahaz, announced that the Taliban leader was killed by other leaders from the faction, namely, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor and Gul Agha. But the group’s spokesman, Qari Hamza, says the supposedly deceased leader was actually killed in July 2013. The spokesman said he has evidence of this.
Another version of events was offered by The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s spy agency, which claims that Mullah Omar died last November.
Other reports indicate that following Mullah Omar’s alleged death some two years ago, the Taliban fractured into three separate factions – one backing peace talks with the Afghan government, another opposing them and the third reportedly comprised of “neutral” militant leaders. Intelligence reports in 2014 indicated that, in the event of his death, Omar had given his trusted friend Mullah Mansoor authority to take over.
But despite these rumors, a message attributed to Mullah Omar started making the rounds on July 15, ahead of the celebrations for Eid, which come at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The message spoke in support of the peace talks with the Kabul government, adding that the objective is the “end to occupation” by foreign armed forces. However, it was only published as text on the Taliban’s website, which further fuelled speculations of Omar being dead or incapacitated.
However, the last anyone has seen of the reclusive leader was following the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the United States, after Omar had joined forces with Osama Bin Laden, widely believed to be the architect behind the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington.