Afghanistan’s national government released on Wednesday what they call “credible” evidence that Mullah Omar, the Taliban commander, died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013.
According to Security Services Spokesman Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, Omar died in a Karachi hospital, as confirmed by Taliban sources at two regional councils where possible successors were discussed.
The revelation comes at an awkward time as Afghan officials prepare for a second round of peace talks with Taliban leaders in Pakistan. Neither the Taliban nor Pakistan have commented on the claims, though a Pakistani official referred to it as “speculation” meant to derail the talks. Pakistan itself has consistently denied harboring Omar.
The leader had lived in seclusion since the overthrow of the regime by American-led forces in 2001. Though he remained a high-profile figure in extremist circles, years of silence prompted rumors of his death to circulate in Taliban circles. The absence is also thought to have prompted an exodus of frustrated Taliban members to the relatively new Islamic State.