An official spokesman for the Taliban has announced that the militant group will not participate in peace talks with the Afghanistan government after it was announced that the group’s supreme leader and founder Mullah Omar died two years ago in the Pakistani city of Karachi.
The Taliban’s announcement has dashed hopes of a possible peace deal to end 14 years of conflict in the war-stricken country, which has a Western-backed government battling a long and bloody insurgency against the militant group that has claimed thousands of lives.
Denying rumours that the Taliban was about to participate in a second round of talks with the Kabul administration, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militant group had “handed all authorisation to its political office and they are not aware of this process."
A second round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban was expected to begin in either Pakistan or China in continuation of talks that were initiated in early July in Pakistan.
The Taliban has been largely divided over participation in the peace talks, although a statement previously made in Mullah Omar’s name offered support for the talks.
Omar’s death was later confirmed by Taliban officials after they chose the group’s political leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who is said to be in favour of peace talks with the Afghan government, to replace him in a meeting on Wednesday night.
Leadership of the Taliban prior to Mansour’s appointment was reportedly said to be “at a crossroads,” according to a senior Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban commander, with one faction calling for Omar's son Yaqoob to replace his father.
"The shura held outside Quetta unanimously elected Mullah Mansour as the new emir of the Taliban," a Taliban commander cited by Reuters said, adding that an official statement would soon be released.