Taliban denies Mullah Omar is dead (Night Lead)

May 23rd, 2011 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Kabul/Islamabad, May 23 (IANS) The Taliban’s legendary one-eyed leader Mullah Omar has been killed in Pakistan, Afghan officials and media said Monday, only to backtrack hours later. The Pakistani Taliban too denied the claim.

“Mullah Omar was killed on way from Quetta to North Waziristan,” Xinhua quoted Afghanistan’s TOLO television as saying. It did not provide details how he was killed and by whom.

An Afghan security official quickly confirmed the reported killing of Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader who has vowed to step up attacks against US troops in Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Directorate for Security (NDS) said that Mullah Omar, who was Afghanistan’s de facto head of state when the Taliban was in power from 1996 to 2001, had disappeared from Pakistan’s Quetta city.

“We can confirm he (Mullah Omar) has disappeared from his hideout in Quetta for the past three or four days,” Xinhua quoted Lutfullah Mashal of the spy agency as saying.

But later in the day, Afghan officials said they were not sure that Mullah Omar was dead.

The US has announced a $10 million award for the rebel’s capture or death.

In New Delhi, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said there were “contradictory reports”.

“Today Afghan authorities have disclosed he was killed. We have to see if it true or not,” he said.

The Pakistani Taliban, which maintains close links with the Afghan Taliban, said the reports of Mullah Omar’s killing were not true.

“Tehreek-e-Taliban has strongly denied that Mullah Omar was killed … as claimed by the Afghan intelligence agency,” Geo TV said.

One report said that former Pakistani spy chief Hamid Gul, who is passionately anti-US, was with Mullah Omar when he came under attack. Gul ridiculed the Afghan claims and said he had never met Mullah Omar.

Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime in Afghanistan had sheltered Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the years prior to the Sep 11 attack in the US.

That prompted the US to declare war on the Taliban and overthrow its regime with the help of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters then fled to Pakistan in large numbers to regroup.

Mullah Omar was widely said to be living in hiding in Quetta, a Pakistani city close to the Afghan border. Pakistan, which played a key role in the Taliban’s birth, says it has no idea of Mullah Omar’s whereabouts.

The news of Mullah Omar’s reported killing came three weeks after US commandos shot dead Osama in Pakistan’s Abbottabad city, triggering a row between Islamabad and Washington.

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