KABUL: The Taliban confirmed on Thursday that their supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died.
After initially denying that Mullah Omar had died, the group’s most prominent spokesman reversed course on Thursday, issuing the group’s official confirmation.
The statement, however, insisted that Mullah Omar had died in recent days after his health took a turn for the worse two weeks ago.
The statement, in Pashto, was issued in the name of the Taliban as well as Mullah Omar’s family. It was emailed from the account of the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.
The statement claimed that Mullah Omar had never left Afghanistan after his government was toppled in 2001.
Most Afghan and Western officials believe Mullah Omar received refuge in Pakistan and led the insurgency from there for a number of years before becoming increasingly cloistered and removed from the Taliban’s operations.
“He struggled for 14 years in Afghanistan, and not for a single day did he travel to Pakistan or any other country,” it said, adding, “There is evidence that could prove he had never been outside of the country.”
He was described as “one of the most significant leaders of the Islamic nation” and as a man “who struggled in a very difficult situation to hoist the Islamic flag.”