1-eyed Taliban chief Mullah Omar dead, says Afghan Intelligence officials

Islamabad, July 30: Elusive one-eyed Taliban chief Mullah Omar, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 with an iron fist before US-led forces toppled his regime, has died, a media report said on wednesday ahead of the second round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the militants hosted by Pakistan.

According to Afghan government and intelligence, Omar died two to three years ago. No further details were released.

Quoting a Taliban spokesman, it said the militant group would issue a statement shortly. According to some reports, Omar was buried in Afghanistan.

There have been several reports of Omar's death in the past. However, this is the first to be confirmed by top sources in the Afghan government, sources said.

Amid mounting speculation of the Taliban supremo's death, an Afghan presidential spokesman today said the Afghanistan government is investigating the reports.

"We are aware of the reports of the passing of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader," Sayed Zafar Hashemi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told to media.

"We are still in the process of verifying those reports, and as soon as we get any more accurate information or identification.we will let the media and the people of Afghanistan know about it," he added.

Earlier this month, the Taliban had issued Omar's message on the eve of Eid in which he had hailed as "legitimate" the July 7 peace talks between his group and the Afghan government aimed at ending 13-year war in Afghanistan.

The latest report comes just two days before the second round of the landmark peace talks scheduled in Pakistan's hill resort of Murree where the first round was held on July 7.

The Taliban leader is hiding following the ouster of his government in 2001. It was Omar's backing for al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks that sparked the US-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Omar is carrying a USD 10 million bounty on his head.

Pakistani officials have not commented on the report. The Taliban have also not reacted to the death report so far.

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