Afghan officials claim Taliban leader has died


The Afghan government is examining claims that reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead.

The Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment on the government’s reports about Omar, who has been declared dead many times before.

Omar, the one-eyed, secretive head of the Taliban and an al Qaida ally, led a bloody insurgency against US-led forces after they toppled him from his rule in Afghanistan in 2001.

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

A Pakistani security official called the rumours “speculation” designed to disrupt peace talks.

Mr Hashemi said: “We are aware of the reports of the passing away of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader.

“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.”

The rumours come two days before the next round of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives is due to be held in Pakistan.

A senior government official confirmed the meeting will take place in the resort town of Murree, where the first round was held on July 7.

If Omar died, it could complicate the peace process as it removes a figurehead for the insurgents, who until now have appeared to act collectively but are believed to be split on whether to continue the war or negotiate with Mr Ghani’s government.

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