The Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has died, Afghan officials were quoted as saying by the media on Wednesday though there was no word from the militant group.
The reclusive one-eyed leader died two to three years ago, Afghan government and intelligence sources were quoted as saying by the BBC. No further details were available.
A Taliban spokesman contacted by the BBC said the group would issue a statement on the issue.
Mullah Omar’s death was confirmed by authorities in Pakistan, who shared the information with Afghan government officials, Afghanistan’s Khaama Press reported.
The issue was reportedly discussed during a meeting of the Afghan cabinet following the confirmation by Pakistani authorities.
The Pakistani authorities said Mullah Omar died two years ago but no further details were given regarding the circumstances surrounding his death, Khaama reported.
An unnamed former Afghan Taliban minister told Pakistan’s The Express Tribune that Mullah Omar died more than two years ago of tuberculosis.
“Mullah Omar died two years and four months ago owing to tuberculosis. He has been buried on the Afghan side of the border,” the former minister said. “Mullah Omar’s son had identified the body of his father.”
The Afghan government is investigating the reports of Mullah Omar's death, said Sayed Zafar Hashemi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
Reports suggested the Afghan Taliban had convened a meeting to elect a new chief before the next round of talks with the government in the Pakistani resort of Murree on July 31.
In this image released by the FBI, Mullah Omar was seen in a wanted poster. (FBI via AP)
It was speculated that Mullah Baradar would succeed Mullah Omar, who had appointed Baradar and Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund as deputy leaders while he was alive.
Ubaidullah died in a jail in Pakistan while Baradar was reportedly released from captivity by Pakistan with some other Taliban leaders in 2013. It is believed Baradar enjoys the support of Sayed Tayyab Agha, the head of the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Qatar.
Mullah Yaqub, the son of Mullah Omar, favours Baradar succeeding his father. Yaqub himself is seen as a potential successor but several Taliban leaders think he is too young to take on the reins.
The Afghan Taliban’s acting chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, a former aviation minister, is among those aspiring for the post of supreme leader. However, his position within the Taliban had been damaged for spreading news of Mullah Omar’s death.
The reports of Mullah Omar’s death came close on the heels of the claim by a splinter group of the Taliban – the Afghanistan Islamic Movement Fidai Mahaz – that he was killed by Taliban leaders Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor and Gull Agha.
The splinter group’s spokesman Qari Hamza said Mullah Omar was in July 2013.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s spy agency, had said last November that Mullah Omar had possibly died and his group has split into three factions.
On July 15, a message purportedly from Mullah Omar appeared for the first time to signal approval for peace talks with the Afghan government. It represented the first word in the name of Mullah Omar on the budding peace process that has split the Afghan Taliban.
The statement posted on a website linked to the Taliban did not include audio or a video.
However, Mullah Omar has not been seen in public since the US-led intervention in 2001. Some disgruntled Taliban factions have suggested he is dead or very ill and others may be making statements in his name.
Some disgruntled Taliban commanders have defected to the Islamic State led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.