Thursday 23 November 2017

Taliban picks new leader after Mullah Mohammad Omar's death

Mullah Mohammad Omar was confirmed dead by Taliban officials
Mullah Mohammad Omar was confirmed dead by Taliban officials

David Kearns

The Taliban has elected a successor to leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has been confirmed dead by officials in Afghanistan.

The one-eyed cleric, who sheltered Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the 11 September attacks in 2001, had not been seen in public since he went into hiding following the US-lead invasion of Afghanistan,

Abdul Hassib Sediqi, spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, said Mr Omar had died in Pakistan in April 2013.

He added: "He was very sick in a Karachi hospital and died suspiciously there."

Read More: The Taliban's most feared leader Mullah Omar died 'two or three years ago'

There have been rumours of the former Taliban leader's death in the past but this time, as well as the confirmation from the Afghanistan government, the US has also said reports of his demise are "credible".

The seven-member Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, chose Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as its new leader during a meeting in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Mr Mansoor had been Omar's deputy for the past three years.

His election to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban confirms the group's ties to the Haqqani network, which has been accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from its base in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan, including a 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.

He is considered close to the Pakistani authorities and his election could further divide an already-fractured Taliban as he is believed to have links to opposing councils within the movement.

Read More: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died in 2013, Afghan officials say

The Taliban is believed to have splintered under pressure to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government after almost 14 years of war.

The group made no comment on the death of Mr Omar, however. Pakistan has also made no comment, and has always denied Omar was housed in the country.

The peace process suffered a blow when Pakistan's foreign ministry said it was postponing the talks due to the "uncertainty" surrounding Mullah Omar's death but gave no new date for the negotiations.

"In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on July 31 2015, is being postponed," said the statement.

The first round of the official, face-to-face discussions was hosted by Islamabad earlier this month.

The meeting was supervised by US and Chinese representatives and ended with both sides agreeing to meet again.

Online Editors

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