Posted at 02:21 PM ET, 05/23/2011

Mullah Omar: Dead or alive?


The rarely photographed Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is reportedly seen in this undated photo. (AP)
Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said Monday that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and some of his top commanders had gone missing from their hideout near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Speculation soon spread that Omar, the bearded, one-eyed, self-declared “leader of the faithful” was dead.

The Taliban staunchly denied the rumors, saying:

Claims and rumors were spread this morning by the Kabul stooge regime’s intelligence directorate, other officials and some media outlets that the esteemed Amir ul-Mumineen [Leader of the faithful] was martyred in Pakistan. We strongly reject these false claims of the enemy.

A former top Pakistani intelligence official, Gen. Hamid Gul, called the reports “nonsense” and “disinformation,” but then said he had no idea whether the Taliban leader was alive or dead.

The reports of Omar’s disappearance spread rapidly on Twitter and many incorrectly tweeted that the Taliban leader was confirmed dead:

First Bin Laden now Mullah Omar?! Doesn't pay to be a bad guy in the Middle east these days. http://bit.ly/jX3YH6less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

The speed of the spread of information and disinformation reflected the heightened excitement present since Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid in Pakistan earlier this month. Omar is wanted by the FBI for sheltering bin Laden in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Despite Omar’s rank, which some say is the highest possible Islamic title, the Taliban leader was so reclusive that he has almost never been photographed or filmed, infrequently gave interviews, and never traveled, so his death is even more difficult to confirm.

As for the Twitter reports saying Omar is dead, they have slowed down, but they have not stopped.

Read more on Omar’s disappearance here.

By  |  02:21 PM ET, 05/23/2011

 
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