Two weeks after a message purportedly from the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar appeared on a website linked to the militant group, the Afghanistan government on Wednesday revealed he had in fact died years ago.
President Ashraf Ghani announced that his government had enough “credible information” to confirm that Omar had died in Pakistan in April 2013. A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security earlier told the Associated Press that Omar, who had a $10m U.S. State Department bounty on his head, had died in a Karachi hospital.
Mullah Omar’s death had been reported several times in the past, with the whereabouts of the reclusive one-eyed leader shrouded in mystery ever since he disappeared from public view in the aftermath of the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan in late 2001.
The Afghan government used news of his death to call on the Taliban to sue for peace in negotiations due to go ahead later this week. “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, in a statement.
Earlier in July, a message in Omar’s name, issued ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, appeared to signal his approval for peace talks in Pakistan between the insurgents and Afghanistan’s government. There was no video or audio with the message, the authenticity of which, like other communications linked to the fugitive Taliban leader in recent years, remained uncertain.
Another message in April—a lengthy biography of Omar running to 5,000 words—claimed he was “in touch with date-to-day happenings of his country, as well as the outside world.”