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Mullah Omar ‘endorses’ Afghan peace talks

Kabul: Eid message attributed to reclusive Taliban leader expected to increase support for militants’ role in Afghan civil society, amid threat from Islamic State

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a recent suicide attack at the gate of an intelligence facility in Kabul.

A message claimed to be from Taliban leader Mullah Omar has endorsed recent talks between Taliban and Afghan government officials, saying that negotiating with the enemy is not prohibited in Islam.

The message was released on Wednesday to mark the upcoming Muslim festival of Id, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and comes a week after an official government delegation met with senior members of the Taliban outside the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

The meeting was the first time in several years that the two sides have had an official sit-down. It has followed a series of informal meetings since May in China, Qatar and Norway.

The veracity of Mullah Omar’s Id message, which appeared on an official Taliban website, has not been confirmed. Indeed, Omar’s name has appeared on similar messages in the past, with no proof he actually penned them.

Bette Dam, an author behind an upcoming biography about the reclusive Taliban leader, said the message was most likely written by people from the political arm of the movement based in Karachi, where many have speculated Pakistani authorities are keeping Omar himself under house arrest.

Support for talks

She added it should not come as a surprise that people speaking for Mullah Omar would support peace talks. Yet, the declaration could help solidify support for negotiations.

Omar, who was the Taliban’s head of state from 1996, has not been seen in public since the U.S.-led coalition toppled his government in 2001. As a sign of growing discontent within the Taliban, some commanders have begun to openly doubt whether he is still alive.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

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