The Taliban confirms Mullah Omar is dead

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The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihulla Mujahid, released a statement via Twitter earlier today confirming that Mullah Omar, the group’s first emir, is dead. The statement is attributed to Omar’s family and the Taliban’s shura council. A screen shot of one of his tweets concerning Omar’s death can be seen above.

Reports of Omar’s demise rocketed through the worldwide media over the past two days, with the Afghan government saying that Omar has been dead since April 2013. The Taliban’s political office apparently admitted this was true on its own official Twitter feed, but other accounts imply he passed away more recently.

The statement released by Mujahid says that Omar suffered from a long-term illness and only succumbed in the past two weeks. The message also says, however, that Omar “never left Afghanistan for one day” during the 14 years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This is obviously not true, as it is widely known that Omar sheltered in Quetta and then Karachi for years. The Taliban’s elite council of advisers and leaders was even called the Quetta Shura, an obvious reference to its geographic home.

There has been much uncertainty concerning Omar’s precise role and operational importance. Ever since he reportedly relocated to Karachi several years ago, jihadists have complained that Omar was either difficult to contact for one reason or another, or incapacitated. Adding to the confusion, the Taliban emir hadn’t released any audio or video messages proving he was alive in years.

The Taliban acted as if Omar were in charge until just recently, issuing a statement in his name to commemorate the end of Ramadan in mid-July. The jihadist group also released a biography for Omar in April, stating he is “still the leader in the present hierarchy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

If Omar was dead at the time, as some accounts now claim, then this was all a ruse. And if it is true that Taliban leaders covered up his death, then their actions may cause additional dissent or confusion in the jihadists’ ranks, as some will undoubtedly feel they weren’t told the truth. Omar’s impeccable jihadist credentials have long been used as a uniting force for the jihadists in South Asia.

Al Qaeda has also acted as if Mullah Omar is alive. Al Qaeda’s leaders have repeatedly pointed him as the “Emir of the Believers,” arguing that he is the jihadists’ rightful chieftain. This argument became an especially important part of al Qaeda’s attempt to fight off the Islamic State’s challenge to its authority. The Islamic State says that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is true “Caliph” and the “Emir of the Believers.” Therefore, Baghdadi and his followers believe that all other jihadists, and indeed all Muslims, owe Baghdadi their loyalty. Al Qaeda’s efforts to rebut the Islamic State’s narrative will be greatly complicated by Omar’s death.

According to multiple reports, the Taliban has already named a new leader. Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Omar’s deputy, has been selected to serve as the jihadist group’s new emir, according to Reuters.

Taliban sources have told the press that Siraj Haqqani has been appointed as one of Mansour’s deputies. Siraj is the youngest son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran commander who fought against the Soviets during the 1980s. Their Haqqani Network is one of the most powerful insurgency organizations in the region. It is also closely allied with al Qaeda.

Mullah Omar is best known for sheltering Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Although Omar may have disagreed with some of bin Laden’s tactics, Omar never disowned his guest. The 9/11 attacks were planned from the sanctuary Omar gave bin Laden and his men and al Qaeda’s jihadists fought alongside the Taliban before 9/11. They continued to do so through the collapse of Omar’s Islamic Emirate in late 2001, the resurgence of the Taliban’s paramilitary army several years later, and until this day.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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  • Ayamo says:

    Thank you for the story.
    Could you provide us with some background info on Akhtar Mohammad Mansour?

  • Mr T says:

    Interesting that they would lie about this for years, if even that is true. Perhaps they were ashamed he died of disease instead of military action making him look weak. It’s also interesting in the leadership fight with ISIS. As the article points out, many followers may feel duped. Well, they were duped. At least now 2 of the top 3 9/11 figures are dead. Now we just need Zawahiri to go. Then the fight is still on with the new generation of murderous thugs who enjoy killing and violence, including unarmed and tied up people.

    • James says:

      Indeed, it is good news (if true) that ol’ one-eyed cyclops (mullah omar) is dead. As far as old and decrepit Zawahiri is conerned, I say that CIA should encourage a go-between ‘child-emissary’ of bed-ridden Baghdoggy to ‘negogiate’ with AQ main. Can’t wait to see the headline that reads: “Old and Decrepit Zawahiri Killed by Child Suicide Bomber ! ! ! ” I will be so ecstatic. Yes, bed-ridden Baghdoggy needs all the help he can get, especially the pukin’ rejects (i.e., the chechnyens) that he knows are headed in AQ main’s direction. It is a fight for fresh blood (or recruits) more than anything else.

  • mike merlo says:

    obviously Omar was only important to a small cadre of acolytes otherwise the so-called Taliban would have never gone to such great lengths to conceal his death. The power struggle that has been taking place behind the scenes will now do the General Public the courtesy of violently playing out in the Open. This should be quaintly entertaining. So who gets dibs on the Opium Revenue?

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I can predict that there would be defections from the Taliban to the Islamic State after this announcement and Afghanistan is going to embrace a civil war between islamic terrorist groups. If you thought Syria is bad enough, then look out for Afghanistan in the future, it’s going to be worse !!

  • Arjuna says:

    ISI asset all the way. Tuberculosis, apparently. Let’s not forget his role in cheerleading insider attacks. Green-on-blue was a big reason the ANA could never built solid trust w ISAF. Don’t negotiate with any jihadists! The Taliban are just as bad as the Islamic State.

    He was an Emir without an Emirate, a skulking neo-Neanderthal. Like Binnie, memorable more for his longevity than any later term crowning achievements. So long, Head Student, leader of the lost. You will not be missed.

    • Mr T says:

      Crowning achievement after killing unarmed woman on a soccer field was his insistence on protecting Bin Laden after 9/11. That didn’t work out so well. How many more years of failed barbaric Islam will we have to go through before Muslims wake up to the truth about jihad and violence in the Muslim world?

  • Stephanie says:

    Is it really that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were creating a ruse of him being alive for political reasons, or do you think it’s possible that most of their respective leaderships really didn’t know that he had died, given that he was so reclusive?

    • Boobeedeen Al-Aqsa says:

      This creates a problem if the Taliban’s leaders like Dr. Z were clueless as to Omar being alive or dead. It means they were out of touch from the reality of what’s going on. The second problem was they were attributing fatwas (religious edicts) to Omar as recent as this Ramadan! When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became Khalifa in 1435 Hijri (2014) at Mosul, the Taliban vociferously denounced its legitimacy – and guess who’s signature was attached to that fatwa? You guessed it, Mullah Omar. He has already been dead for a year (reports that he died in April 2013).

      • Arjuna says:

        I wish it created more of a “problem” than it did. I don’t think these snakes necessarily care who their chain of command contains. Bayat is largely for show. Z is alive and just pledged it to Mansour (via audio), but I hardly see the former ever taking operational orders from the latter. No matter. Kill them all and let Allah sort them out.

  • Ben Dere says:

    Is the big shift to ISI in the making…?
    It appears as though the forces that be, have in a very timely manner. Managed to push this “Is he dead or alive” question to it’s conclusion. No doubt a topic of discussion that has been at ISI’s forefront. Since their declaration of a sunni lead, Islamic State based once again out of Iraq.
    Of course the Taliban’s intentional deception, regarding the time/cause of death for Mullah Omar. Will be used by the folks inside ISI, to fuel their claim for the Throne, garnering support for the new “Emir of the Believers”. IMO this will also become another means to undermine Zawahiri and the old guard at AQ. While drawing-in more and more foreign fighters under the ISI banner. Any guesses on how long before some one inside ISI. Gives up Zawahiri’s location to the west, as it is rumored the good Doctor gave up Usama bin Laden’s?

  • Boobeedeen Al-Aqsa says:

    Many mu’mineen feel lied to by the Taliban leadership in AfPak. It’s amongst the greatest of sins for us believers. Only taqiyya is permitted when lying – for those who are scratching their heads taqiyya is more about concealment than lying. When the Spanish Christians took Adalusia from the believers, Muslims outwardly appeared Christian whilst secretly practising Islam. This is taqiyya. The lying is to preserve a Muslim’s religion, not to give out false or doctored information because it benefits your people’s morale. It has no place in Islam.

    No doubt, the lie was propagated to stem the flow of enthusiasts to join the Islamic State.

    • James says:

      What about the lie concerning the Jordanian pilot that ISIS claimed was alive when in fact he had been brutally burned alive weeks before?

    • Mr T says:

      Lots of stuff supposedly has no place in Islam but it continues to happen unabated and has for centuries. Just more taqiyya? Any lie, barbaric act, or violence is ok as long as some Muslim says it is?

  • Arjuna says:

    Look who chimes in with a nice eulogy! How touching. Hamid Gul absolutely knew where MMO was being stored and how he was doing. Go read MMO’s Eid messages. They were written by the ISI (not a semi-illiterate rural mullah).
    Guess who knows where AAZ is? Hint: His initials are HG.


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