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Taliban say Mullah Omar dead, appoint successor
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In this undated image released by the FBI, Mullah Mohammed Omar is seen in a wanted poster. (FBI via AP, File)

In this undated image released by the FBI, Mullah Mohammed Omar is seen in a wanted poster. (FBI via AP, File)

Peshawar and Kabul, Reuters—The Afghan Taliban have appointed Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as leader of the insurgency, two Afghan commanders present at a meeting of the militant movement’s most senior figures said on Thursday, following reports that Mullah Mohammed Omar is dead.

“The shura 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.”

Mansour has been acting as Mullah Omar’s deputy for the past three years.

Afghanistan said on Wednesday that Mullah Omar, the elusive leader of the Taliban movement fighting to topple the government, died more than two years ago.

The announcement came a day or so before a second round of peace talks had been tentatively scheduled. Taliban senior figures have been split over the talks, but Mansour is known to be in favor of them.

Omar had not been seen in public since fleeing when the Taliban was toppled from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, and there has been speculation for years among militant circles that he was either incapacitated or had died.

“The government . . . based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of the Taliban, died in April 2013 in Pakistan,” the presidential palace said in a brief statement, without specifying what the information was.

“The government of Afghanistan believes that grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.”

The Taliban’s regular spokesman could not be reached for comment through normal channels.

The White House said it was aware of reports of the death of Omar and believed them to be “credible.” Spokesman Eric Schultz said US intelligence continued to look into the matter.

Preparations had been under way for the next round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, provisionally planned for Thursday or Friday in a location yet to be confirmed.

President Ashraf Ghani is keen to broker a settlement with the insurgents, who have been gaining territory in pockets of the country and intensifying their attacks on military and political targets.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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