Kabul declares Taliban supremo dead
Afghan officials have declared that Taliban supremo and Mullah Omar's successor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has succumbed to injuries, which he sustained in a gunfight on Wednesday. Officials claim that the gunfight was triggered by an argument that ensued between Taliban commanders. The Taliban released an audio clip yesterday purportedly of Mullah Mansoor that claimed he is well and that these death reports are fabricated.
The Taliban were created as a result of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Claiming to restore peace, security and introduce their austere version of Sharia law, the Taliban extended their influence from south-western Afghanistan. By 1998, they controlled almost 90% of Afghanistan and introduced strict laws- banning entertainment- and severe punishments like public executions. They also had quite some influence in Karachi, Pakistan.
Born in Kandahar, Mullah Omar was a village clergyman who lost an eye to shrapnel while fighting the Soviets during their occupation in the 1980s. He successfully led the Taliban to victory over the other militia after the Soviets withdrew and was consequently made Supreme Leader in 1996. His regime was overthrown by the USA during the invasion of Afghanistan.
On 7 October 2001, USA invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and flushed out the Taliban, under Omar, who had links with Bin Laden. Since then, Omar has been in hiding between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan. USA had a $10 million bounty on Omar's head. Despite one of the largest manhunts in the world, he has managed to evaded capture.
An anonymous Afghan intelligence official claimed that Omar Abdullah had been killed in Pakistan. However, this claim was later refuted by the Taliban, who said that the reports were false. In their statement, they said that Omar was alive and "leading the mujahideen". A Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid said that these reports were part of "enemy propaganda" to "create confusion" among the mujahideen.
Omar was reported to be hiding in the Pakistani city of Quetta, along with other Taliban leaders. They were allegedly being assisted by former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul and the ISI. The false alert about Omar's death came during the supposed move that the militant leaders were making to North Waziristan, since the ISI were trying to move them out of Pakistan.
Omar is described as 50 years old, with a beard and a turban and is 6 feet tall. Only two pictures of the Taliban leader are in existence, which have not been released officially and neither of them have been verified.
The last known message attributed to Omar Mullah was the one released by the Taliban in mid-July to mark the festival of Id-ul-Fitr. This statement supported peace-talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. However, it was a text published on a Taliban website instead of an audio or video recording, which fuelled rumours that the Taliban leader was dead.
Pakistani authorities have reported that Mullah Omar, the Supreme Leader of the Taliban may have died 2-3 years ago. The Afghan cabinet also reportedly met to discuss the matter and claimed the same. Afghanistan cabinet have called a press conference and released a statement about the issue. The report has not been verified since the Taliban are yet to comment on the matter.