The Taliban admitted on Monday to covering up the death of notorious leader, Mullah Omar, for over two years.
In his successor's biography, the Taliban confirms that Omar died on 23 April 2013.
The Taliban details the reasoning behind the cover-up:
"One of the main reasons behind this decision was due to the fact that 2013 was considered the final year of power testing between the mujahideen and foreign invaders who... had announced that at the end of 2014, all military operations by foreign troops would be concluded," the biography said.
The elusive one-eyed Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, would make any cat with nine lives jealous because despite being claimed dead by news outlets and government agencies several times — he rises from the grave each time.
Afghan government officials have confirmed Omar is dead, citing “credible information” that the leader died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013, according to a press release from President Ashraf Ghani's office.
Omar, who lost his right eye fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, has frequently been the subject of death rumors. Reports have repeatedly surfaced since 2001 (last time Omar was seen in the public eye) that the secretive leader was dead. Rumors again emerged in 2008, 2011 and 2014 saying he was killed, but the Taliban has vehemently denied the speculations, claiming their leader was still very much alive. Even now the Taliban denies the report, disclosing to Voice of America that the extremist leader is alive.
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While Afghan officials are taking this recent claim a little more seriously than previous assumptions, the series of conflicting reports and holes in this current story raises eyebrows the leader might not actually be dead this time.
A blog post published only two weeks ago — July 15 — on the Afghan Taliban’s official website has been purported to be written by Omar addressing his support of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Yet the statement was issued without video or audio, making the post hard to verify.
Afghan intelligence cited solid sources on mullah Omar's death in 2011: Taliban Deny Reports of Mullah Omar’s Death http://t.co/SYn5jvnhFI— Carlotta Gall (@carlottagall) July 29, 2015
Current and past reports share the tie of Afghani intelligence, which might make the information slightly less reliable as The New York Times’ Carlotta Gall notes. And The Atlantic points out that reports of Omar’s death have surfaced when tensions have run high in the region and a balance of power might be pertinent to the news of Omar's death.
Negotiations with the Afghan government have reportedly split the movement. A prominent Taliban website denounced peace talks and splinter group Fidai Mahaz said this month Omar is indeed dead. Both incidents have put pressure on the negotiations, and Omar's consistent absence and push for peace remains a thorn inside the group — whether the leader is dead or not.