Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, is not dead, according to both the Taliban and Pakistani officials.
The Afghan Taliban forcefully denied reports Monday that their leader is dead, dismissing them as “claims and rumors” from the “Kabul stooge regime’s intelligence directorate.”
Mullah Mohammed Omar “is alive and well and is leading the Mujahideen in all aspects while living safely with reliance on Allah,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
His statement came after suggestions that Omar might have been killed recently.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said Monday that Omar has disappeared in the past five days.
Lutfullah Mashal said he “hopes” Omar is dead but cannot confirm it.
“So far, we cannot confirm the death or killing of Mullah Omar officially. But we can confirm that he has been disappeared from his hideout in Quetta, Baluchistan” in Pakistan, he said.
It’s more interesting that the Afghan intelligence agency is the one making this claim. Like Osama bin Laden before him, Mullah Omar had been hiding out in Pakistan, in a safe house in Quetta. That public statement alone could cause some difficulties for Pakistan, already reeling from harboring bin Laden within its borders. The Afghans claim that Mullah Omar has been there for 10 years.
Pakistan had to deny that Omar was dead, an unenvious position at best. Former ISI official Hamid Gul had to even deny that he personally transported Mullah Omar out of the safe house in Quetta. The ties between the ISI intelligence service in Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban are well known.
It’s hard to know what the truth is about Mullah Omar, as neither the entity reporting his death or the one denying it are particularly reputable sources. In fact, US diplomats have dismissed the report as a rumor. But the fact that we have these dueling claims between Afghanistan and Pakistan shows the strain between these two countries, which has only intensified since the bin Laden raid.
More from Ray Rivera and Carlotta Gall.