Afghan intelligence: Taliban leader Mullah Omar dead
Afghanistan's main intelligence agency said yesterday that the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for more than two years.
The one-eyed, secretive head of the Taliban hosted Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks and then waged a decade-long insurgency against US troops after the 2001 invasion that ended Taliban rule.
He has not been seen in public since fleeing the invasion over the border into Pakistan.
Abdul Hassib Sediqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, said Mullah Omar died in a hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi in April 2013.
"We confirm officially that he is dead," he told the Associated Press.
It was not immediately clear why his death was only being announced now. The Taliban could not immediately be reached for comment. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it had no information about the announcement.
A former Taliban minister who was once close to Mullah Omar said he had died of tuberculosis and was "buried somewhere near the border on the Afghan side".
He spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardise his standing with the Taliban, who do not want individual members to speak to thee media.
A Pakistani security official, also speaking on condition that he not be named as he was not authorised to brief journalists, had earlier dismissed rumours of Mullah Omar's death as "speculation" designed to disrupt peace talks.
Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to meet on Friday in Pakistan for a second round of official talks aimed at ending the war that is nearing its 14th year.
"He was very sick in a Karachi hospital and died suspiciously there," Sediqi said, without elaborating. He said the Afghan government had been aware of Mullah Omar's death for two years and had made it public on a number of occasions.
The earlier claims of his death, however, lacked the heft and detail of yesterday's confirmation from the Kabul authorities. They usually came from second-hand sources, were made behind closed doors, or lacked direct confirmation from the government. The Taliban denied previous claims.
The White House said the reports of Mullah Omar's death were credible and that the US intelligence community is looking into them.