- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2011

Afghanistan’s most-popular private news network reported Monday that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been killed in Pakistan, reports that the Islamist militant movement denied.

The satellite news network TOLO News cited an Afghan security source in the report, which had few details. Neither Afghanistan’s government nor Pakistan’s immediately confirmed or denied the reports.

According to TOLO, Omar was killed Saturday while in the custody of a former top official with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, which has long and widely been suspected of secretly backing the Taliban and harboring Osama bin Laden — both contrary to the official public policy of Pakistan’s government.

“Mullah Omar was shot dead as he was being moved from Quetta to North Waziristan by former ISI chief Gen. Hamid Gul,” the TOLO report said.

A security official also confirmed the killing to China’s official news agency, telling Xinhua that “it is correct that Mullah Omar has been killed.”

An Afghan intelligence source, speaking to Agence France-Presse in Kabul on condition of anonymity, confirmed the TOLO and Xinhua reports, but elaborated that the Pakistanis had betrayed the Taliban chief.

“As Mullah Omar was being transported from Quetta to North Waziristan by the ISI, he was secretly killed by the ISI,” the source said, telling the French news agency that he got the information from within the Haqqani insurgent group, whose leaders are based in Pakistan.

The Taliban in Afghanistan quickly denounced the reports.

“He is in Afghanistan safe and sound,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters news agency by telephone. “We reject these baseless reports that Mullah Mohammad Omar has been killed.”

Omar, possibly born around 1959, has led the Taliban since 1996. Until 2001, his Islamist movement ruled the country and also harbored bin Laden while his al Qaeda terrorists planned the Sept. 11 attacks. He and his movement has been on the run since the resulting U.S.-led invasion.

The Taliban leader was reportedly killed in 2008 in a missile strike by a U.S. drone against a compound owned by him in the Pakistani province of South Waziristan, but those reports did not turn out to be accurate.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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