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Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Dead - Yorkshire Hub

Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Dead

The one-eyed head of the hardline Islamist group hasn’t been seen in years, leading to speculation he has been dead for some time.

Mullah Omar

Mullah Omar was last seen in public in 2001

The Afghan government has said it is investigating reports reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar has died.

Zafar Hashemi, a deputy spokesman for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, made the announcement at a news conference in Kabul.

He said: “We are still in the process of checking those reports, and as soon as we get confirmation or verification, we will inform the Afghan people and the media.”

Media reports in Afghanistan and Pakistan this week said Omar died about two years ago, with some of the reports indicating his son was in a position to take over.

However, Taliban spokesman Qariy Yousef Ahmadi has told Sky News: “According to my information Mullah Omar is still alive and leading the movement.”

The one-eyed head of the hardline Islamist movement has not been seen in public since 2001, leading to speculation he has been dead for some time.

The militant group ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s until 2001, when a US-led offensive forced them from power.

Since then the Taliban has been fighting an insurgency against the Western-backed government, killing thousands of civilians and military personnel.

The militants have made significant territorial gains in recent months, spreading Afghan forces thinly after the end of the US and NATO combat mission at the end of last year.

Tentative peace talks aimed at ending the conflict have begun, although the Taliban is split between those who back dialogue and those who want to continue fighting.

A Pakistani security official, speaking anonymously because he is not authorised to brief journalists, called the rumours “speculation” designed to disrupt the talks.

The next round of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives is due to be held in Pakistan on Friday.

If confirmed, Omar’s death could complicate the peace process because it removes a figurehead for the Taliban.

“Whether he is dead or alive is important because he is the collective figure for the Taliban,” said a Western diplomat with connections to the Taliban leadership who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If he is dead, it would be much more difficult to get negotiations with the Taliban because there would be no collective figure to rally around and take collective responsibility for entering peace talks.”

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