KABUL (Reuters) - The head of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, Mullah Omar, is alive and in touch with current events, the group has said in a 5,000 word document released to mark his nineteenth year of leadership.
Published on a Taliban web site on Sunday in four languages, the account addresses rumors the reclusive one-eyed leader, in hiding for over a decade, is either dead or seriously ill.
“He remains in touch with the day-to-day happenings of his country, as well as the outside world,” the document says.
The U.S. State Department has a $10 million bounty on Mullah Omar’s head and the Taliban leader has not appeared in public since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The Taliban have gained strength as foreign troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan and control swathes of rural areas, where they implement Sharia law and collect taxes.
Despite these gains, they face defections from within, as disgruntled commanders have in various parts of the country withdrawn support and declared allegiance to Islamic State radicals.
Writing by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Jessica Donati and Raju Gopalakrishnan