ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – The Afghan Taliban and sources close to the insurgent group’s upcoming peace talks with the Afghan government in Pakistan this week are rejecting reports that fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Omar is dead.
A Taliban spokesman, when contacted by the Voice of America (VOI), insisted that the group’s leader “is very much alive” and the rumors of his death are aimed at drawing out the reclusive leader.
On Wednesday, Afghan officials in Kabul said they were investigating his reported death. Other media organisations have attributed the claims to senior Afghan officials.
Read more: Mullah Omar is dead: Afghan President
Sources with knowledge of the nascent Afghan peace process also dismissed reports of Omar’s death, suggesting they are aimed at derailing the second round of talks planned to take place in Pakistan later this week.
Reports of Mullah Omar’s death have occasionally appeared in the media over the past decade. They have never been confirmed, although he has released just a few statements in recent years.
In his most recent statement earlier this month, Mullah Omar endorsed the Afghan peace talks as religiously “legitimate,” saying he is not opposed to peaceful negotiations if they can help end “US-led foreign occupation” of Afghanistan and establish an Islamic system in the country.
Mullah Omar led the Taliban when US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 over the Taliban’s support for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The US government has a $10 million bounty on Mullah Omar’s head.