A critical question has surfaced this morning about one of the most-wanted men in the world: Where is Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar? A spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), Lutfullah Mashal, says he "hopes" Omar is dead but can't confirm it, though his sources and senior Taliban members are telling him that they haven't been able to contact their leader, who he says has been living in Quetta, Pakistan for ten years, for the past five days. Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, meanwhile, claims Omar "is alive and well and is leading the Mujahideen" in Afghanistan. Pakistan's interior minister has also denied the rumor, while a NATO official tells CNN that the coalition has no evidence to suggest that Omar is dead.
How did all this speculation get started in the first place? The original report (pictured above) appears to have come from Afghanistan's TOLOnews, which cited an anonymous NDS official as saying that Omar was shot dead a couple days ago in Pakistan as former Pakistani intelligence chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, was moving the Taliban leader from Quetta to North Waziristan. (The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright recently wrote that Gul "helped oversee the creation of the Taliban" and that Pakistan's ISI intelligency agency "openly supported the Taliban" until 9/11. The Pakistani government, Wright added, may still be providing "Taliban leaders with safe harbor in Quetta.") Mashal, the NDS spokesman, confirmed to TOLO that Omar was moved to Waziristan while Gul denied any involvement with Omar or any knowledge of the Taliban leader's whereabouts. Other Afghan news outlets and Pakistan's GEO TV are running with news of Omar's death, and China's Xinhua news agency is also quoting an anonymous Afghan security official as saying Omar has been killed.