Taliban confirm death of Mullah Omar, elect new leader

  • Agencies, Peshawar
  • Updated: Jul 30, 2015 21:12 IST

The Afghan Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and chose a new successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

The announcement was made by two Afghan commanders present at a meeting of the militant movement's most senior figures.

"The shura (Supreme Council) held outside Quetta unanimously elected Mullah Mansour as the new emir of the Taliban," said one commander who attended the Wednesday night meeting. "The shura will release a statement shortly."

The two Taliban officials said the seven-member-council has been meeting in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised by the council to talk to the media.

They also said the group chose Sirajuddin Haqqani as their new deputy leader.

The Afghan government said on Wednesday that Mullah Omar had died in a Karachi hospital two years ago. Pakistan is yet to confirm this.

Pakistan has always denied over the years that Mullah Omar --who has a 10 million dollar US bounty on his head -- was in the country.

Peace talks postponed

Meanwhile, Pakistan said the peace talks it was due to hold between the Afghan government and the Taliban have been postponed.

"In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on 31 July 2015, is being postponed," a statement from the Pakistan foreign office said.

Hours earlier the Taliban had distanced itself from the talks in an English-language statement posted on their website

"Media outlets are circulating reports that peace talks will take place very soon... either in the country of China or Pakistan," the Taliban said. "(Our) political office... are not aware of any such process."

The second round of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were scheduled to be held on Friday in Islamabad. The first round was held in Murree in Pakistan on July 7.

Existential crisis

Omar's death would mark a significant blow to the Taliban, which is riven by internal divisions and threatened by the rise of the Islamic State group that is making steady inroads in Afghanistan.

The postponement of the second round of talks would be an indication of the crisis within the group.

Michael Kugelman, Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the "talks have... certainly lost their momentum".

"Announcement of Omar's death will spark an existential crisis for the Taliban, and the last thing that will be on its mind are peace talks. It will need to focus on its survival, not talks," Kugelman told AFP.

The BBC reported that the appointment of Mullah Mansour as the new leader is likely to divide the militants, and that many senior figures opposed the appointment.

Some in the Taliban may have preferred Omar's son to succeed him, and accuse pro-Pakistani elements in the group of imposing Mullah Mansour on them, the report said.

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