News Daily Spot: Mullah Omar 'Died Two Years Ago', Officials Say

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Mullah Omar 'Died Two Years Ago', Officials Say

Taliban leader Mullah Omar died in a Karachi hospital in 2013, Afghan security officials have insisted, despite the group's spokesman telling Sky News he is "alive and leading the movement".
The one-eyed head of the hardline Islamist movement has not been seen in public since 2001, and rumours that he was dead were reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan this week.
The White House has called the reports "credible".
Sky sources said Omar's son, Mullah Yaqoob, had admitted his father died some time ago, and a senior Afghan Taliban commander based in Pakistan told Reuters Omar had died of natural causes, although he did not specify when.
Some of the reports suggested his son had taken over.
Taliban spokesman Qariy Yousef Ahmadi told Sky News that the rumours were not true.
"According to my information Mullah Omar is still alive and leading the movement," he said.
But an Afghan official, speaking on Wednesday, said the reports were correct and Omar had died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, in April 2013.
Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, said: "He was very sick in a Karachi hospital and died suspiciously there.
"We confirm officially that he is dead." 
The militant group ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s until 2001, when a US-led offensive forced them from power.
Since then the Taliban has been fighting an insurgency against the Western-backed government, killing thousands of civilians and military personnel.
The militants have made significant territorial gains in recent months, spreading Afghan forces thinly after the end of the US and NATO combat mission at the end of last year.
Tentative peace talks aimed at ending the conflict have begun, although the Taliban is split between those who back dialogue and those who want to continue fighting.
A Pakistani security official, speaking anonymously because he is not authorised to brief journalists, called the reports of Omar's death "speculation" designed to disrupt the talks.
The next round of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives is due to be held in Pakistan on Friday.
Omar's death could complicate the peace process because it removes a figurehead for the Taliban.
"Whether he is dead or alive is important because he is the collective figure for the Taliban," said a Western diplomat with connections to the Taliban leadership who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"If he is dead, it would be much more difficult to get negotiations with the Taliban because there would be no collective figure to rally around and take collective responsibility for entering peace talks."
But the presidential palace in Kabul, also officially confirming the death, was optimistic about the talks. 
"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," it said.

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