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Taliban confirms death of leader Mullah Omar, names successor

Taliban officials said Mullah Aktar Mansoor, longtime Omar deputy, will replace him.

By Ed Adamczyk

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 30 (UPI) -- The Afghan Taliban confirmed Thursday its founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has died, and a successor has been chosen.

The announcement came after the government in Kabul revealed Wednesday the reclusive leader died in 2013. The Taliban did not disclose the date of his death, only that he died of an illness, and while the announcement did not mention it, Taliban officials told new media that Mullah Aktar Mansoor, Omar's longtime deputy, had been elevated to the top of the Taliban's chain of command.

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New leadership may suggest a new start at a long-delayed formal peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Mansoor has previously supported informal contacts with the government instead of an official, brokered peace conference; strong support of Mansoor by Taliban leaders could help unite the Taliban on the matter and facilitate reconciliation with the government.

A meeting of Taliban and Afghan officials, in what could be considered the first step in a peace process, was scheduled for Friday in Pakistan but was delayed by the report of Mullah Omar's death.

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Omar founded the Taliban in the 1990s, and stayed out of public view since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition.

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