Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Taliban deny Mullah Omar death report

Taliban deny Mullah Omar death report - World - CBC News
Taliban deny Mullah Omar death report

The reclusive leader of the Taliban has disappeared from a suspected hideout in Pakistan and has been out of contact with his commanders for days, the Afghan intelligence agency said Monday.

The statement raised new questions about Mullah Mohammad Omar after a media report said he was killed.

The Taliban denied the claim on the Afghan news channel Tolo that Omar had been shot dead while being moved inside Pakistan with the help of a former Pakistani intelligence official. The Taliban spokesman countered that Omar was alive in Afghanistan.

The conflicting reports underscore the complicated disputes and suspicions between Afghanistan and Pakistan as the United States intensifies pressure on both sides: urging Afghan forces to step up efforts against militants while pushing Pakistani authorities to help unravel the networks that aided Osama bin Laden.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir was in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been increasingly outspoken in the need for Pakistan to take a stronger role in the fight against militant groups.

There also has been much speculation that the U.S. might ramp up efforts to kill or capture the Taliban leader after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he would order another covert military raid if necessary to stop terrorist attacks.

Afghan officials claim Omar has been sheltered in Quetta or Karachi, major cities in southeast and southern Pakistan. Pakistan says it has no credible evidence Omar is in the country.

Mashal said Omar and some Taliban commanders had not been spotted since late last week while moving to North Waziristan — a tribal area in Pakistan that is used as a staging ground for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan — from Quetta.

Mashal suggested that "maybe an incident has happened along the way," but emphasized that officials had no further information about the fate of the Taliban leader.

"We can confirm he's been disappeared from his hideout," Afghan National Directorate for Security spokesman Latifullah Mashal told reporters in Kabul.

Mashal made the statement after the Tolo report, which cited an anonymous Afghan intelligence official as saying Omar had been shot dead in Pakistan en route to North Waziristan with the help of Gen. Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistani intelligence.

Taliban leader alive: spokesman

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid declined to give details of Omar's whereabouts, but said the insurgent leader was "busy directing military operations with his commanders."

A Pakistani intelligence official also said that there was no information to back up the report of Omar's death. He spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject. Gul told The Associated Press that the story was false.

"This is propaganda, sheer deception, disinformation," Gul said. "I have never met him. I've never seen him. No contact whatsoever."

Mashal said that the NDS had shared information about Omar's whereabouts "more than 30 times" with neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan.

"Most of the allies are honest, some are not," the spokesman said in an apparent reference to Pakistan.

Afghanistan's leaders accuse Pakistan's intelligence services of aiding the Taliban and other insurgents fighting international and Afghan troops. Pakistan is also under intense scrutiny from Washington for failing to locate bin Laden, who was found in a compound in a military town near the Pakistani capital.

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