The office of the Afghan president confirms in a statement that the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar, died two years ago.
The one-eyed cleric has not been seen in public since 2001, when the Taliban were toppled by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
The US Rewards for Justice programme is still offering up to $10m for information on Mullah Mohammed Omar, saying his “Taliban regime in Afghanistan sheltered Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks”.
The Taliban has denied previous reports of his death but have not yet issued a statement.
Reports in the Afghan and Pakistani media this week said that Mullah Omar died about two years ago. Some reports suggested that his son was poised to take over the Islamist insurgency, which is fighting against the US-backed Afghan government.
The government statement confirming Omar’s death continued: “The government of Afghanistan believes that grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process.”
The Taliban has made territorial gains in recent months and there have been talks aimed at ending the fighting.
The militants are said to be split into those who favour negotiating with Kabul and those who want to continue the conflict. A statement recently issued in the name of Mullah Omar said it was not against Islamic law to talk to enemies in times of war.