How Taliban Kept Leader's Death Secret for 2 Years

It helped that only one person was allowed to see him
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2015 12:06 PM CDT
How Taliban Kept Leader's Death Secret for 2 Years
This file photo reportedly shows Mullah Omar.   (AP Photo/File)

The Taliban has confirmed that leader Mullah Omar is dead, and it appears he has been so for two years now. How did the Taliban pull it off for so long? A report in the New York Times helps explain: The reclusive Omar steadily reduced the number of Taliban members he would see until by 2013, it was down to one: Mullah Mansoor. It seems that Mansoor kept up the ruse for as long as he could, ostensibly pretending to pass along messages and issue orders in Omar's name. Finally, the lack of credible evidence that Mullah Omar was alive—no video statements, for example—became too overwhelming. Mullah Omar's son and brother kept getting turned away when they tried to visit, guessed correctly at the truth, and began spreading the word.

So what's next for the Taliban? Mullah Mansoor is now the official leader, but the organization faces what the BBC calls the "biggest challenge" in its history. Mullah Omar was a revered figure whose presence held the group together, perhaps why Mullah Mansoor tried to keep him alive so long. Mullah Mansoor's main task will be to keep the Taliban from splintering. He's described as a pragmatist who favors peace talks with the Afghan government, and his reportedly close ties with Pakistan should help on that front, reports AP. But hard-liners in the group want to continue the insurgency, and the fear in the West is that they'll break off and join the Islamic State. (More Taliban stories.)

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