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Afghan Government Say Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Dead

 Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar, undated
Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar, undated

The Afghan government has said that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is dead, in an official statement sent to media.

The statement added that the ground for the Afghan peace talks was now paved and he called on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.

Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on July 29 that Mullah Omar died in a hospital in the Pakistani city of Karachi due to an illness two years and four months ago.

There has been no official reaction from Pakistan.

Earlier on July 29, there were conflicting details in reports by Afghan and international media quoting unnamed government and militant sources.

There have been many reports in the past about Mullah Omar's death, but July 29 marks the first time Afghan officials have confirmed any of those reports even privately.

There was no immediate reaction from Afghanistan's Taliban to the announcement.

The White House said on July 29 that reports of Mullah Omar's death were credible.

"Without commenting on the specifics of these reports, we do believe the reports of his death are credible. Beyond that I am not going to be in a position to comment on specifics surrounding his death," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

The Taliban's official spokesmen have repeatedly denied previous reports of Mullah Omar's death.

But Fidai Mahaz, a splinter group of the Taliban that does not support peace talks with the Afghan government, announced last week earlier that Mullah Omar was dead and had been replaced by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur.

The confirmation of Mullah Omar's death by authorities in Kabul comes at a critical time, with a second round of peace talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan government negotiators scheduled in Pakistan on July 31.

On July 15, an official Taliban website issued a statement in Mullah Omar's name which backed the legitimacy of those peace talks -- reversing the Taliban's traditional position that there could be no meaningful peace talks until all foreign military forces have left Afghan soil.

The first round of face-to-face talks took place in Murree, Pakistan on the outskirts of Islamabad on July 7 under the auspices of U.S. and Chinese officials.

The visit by the Taliban's delegation was organized by Mullah Mansur

With additional reporting by BBC, AP, AFP, dpa, and Afghan TV 1