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Afghan Government Investigates Reports That Mullah Omar Is Dead

Undated photo reportedly showing Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The Afghan government says it is investigating reports that the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, is dead.

It is, of course, worth noting that rumors of Omar's death have swirled in the past and have turned out to be unreliable.

The BBC reports:

"A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that the authorities were trying to verify the reports. 'As soon as we get any more authentication... we're going to let the media and the people of Afghanistan know about that,' Sayed Zafar Hashemi said.

"Mullah Omar led the Taliban to victory over rival Afghan militias in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops. His alliance with al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

"Mullah Omar has since been in hiding, with a $10m (£6.4m;€9m) US state department bounty on his head."

The most recent reports cite Afghan officials saying Omar has been dead for two years.

A Taliban spokesman, however, told Voice of America, a news service funded by the United States government, that Omar is "very much alive."

As we've reported, little is known about the one-eyed leader. Even when the Sunni Muslim cleric was the most powerful man in Afghanistan, he avoided Kabul and instead gave orders from his home in Kandahar.

The Wall Street Journal reports that if, indeed, Omar is dead, it raises questions about who will lead the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"News of his death comes at a difficult time for the movement, which is deeply divided over whether to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government with the aim of ending the 14-year war," the Journal reports.

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