Date
19 January 2017
Afghan soldiers patrol a road outside Kabul after the Taliban confirmed the death of its spiritual leader and named a successor. Photo: EPA
Afghan soldiers patrol a road outside Kabul after the Taliban confirmed the death of its spiritual leader and named a successor. Photo: EPA

Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names successor

The Taliban has confirmed the death of their founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and appointed a new leader.

Mullah Omar died of an illness, the Afghan insurgent movement said without saying when.

It called for a three-day mourning period in mosques everywhere, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The confirmation comes a day after the Kabul government said he had died in the spring of 2013, capping years of intense speculation on the fate of the reclusive leader.

Mullah Omar had stayed out of the public eye since the 2001 US-led invasion, during which he is believed to have spent time in neighboring Pakistan.

Since then, the leader, widely known among his followers as the Amir Ul Momineen or “commander of the faithful”, maintained contact with very few trusted aides.

His title has now passed on to his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who has been the acting head of the militant group since 2010.

“Mullah Mansour is the new Amir Ul Momineen,” said a person briefed by senior Taliban on Thursday.

The Taliban haven’t officially commented on the appointment of Mullah Mansour, who had served as minister for aviation under Taliban rule. Afghan government officials also couldn’t confirm his appointment.

A Pakistani security official and a person close to the Taliban said the decision was made by the Taliban’s leadership council on Thursday morning.

The appointment of a new leader may help bridge divisions within the Taliban that have complicated efforts aimed at starting a formal peace process — a priority of the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Key figures within the Taliban movement have been divided on whether and how to pursue a peace deal.

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