Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has been in hiding since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, is reportedly dead. Is it for real this time?
Previous reports over the years have made the same claim about the Taliban’s spiritual leader, which the Taliban has always refuted.
But this time, the Afghan government is investigating the latest intelligence that says he died in a Pakistan hospital in 2013. White House spokesman Eric Schulz said U.S. officials found the report credible, but he stopped short of confirming it.
Omar helped lead the Taliban to victory against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He was Afghanistan’s head of state from 1996 to 2001.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, U.S. special forces undertook a cave-to-cave search for elusive al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and Omar.
The U.S. State Department has placed a $10 million bounty on Omar for posing a “continuing threat to America and her allies.”
Even with Omar in hiding, the Taliban has continued attacks in Afghanistan, including a June car bombing at the parliament compound in Kabul.
The Taliban has rallied under the one-eyed man who has achieved almost mythical status and enabled the Taliban to present a united front in negotiations with the Afghan government.
When the latest claims came out on Wednesday, a security official in Pakistan — host of the talks between the Taliban and Afghan government — told the Associated Press that reports of Omar’s death are “speculation” aimed at derailing the negotiations.
Jessica Donati, a Reuters reporter in Kabul, discussed the rumors surrounding the cause of Omar’s death and divides within the Taliban on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.