For the first time senior sources in the Afghan government confirmed Wednesday that Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Afghan Taliban, is dead and has been for the last two to three years.
Afghan government and intelligence sources said Omar had died, without giving further details; a Taliban spokesperson told the BBC that the terror group would soon be issuing a statement.
Reports have been heard in the past about Omar's death, although this is the first confirmation by senior Afghan officials.
Omar led the Taliban to defeat rival Afghan militias in the civil war after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989. His alliance with Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US to attack Afghanistan in 2001, and he has since been believed to be in hiding with a $10 million bounty on his head by the US.
The Taliban published a number of messages supposedly from Omar during the years in which the Afghan government now says he was dead, indicating that the statements were faked.
The most recent statement purportedly from Omar in mid-July backed the ongoing peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government, but it was published as text on a Taliban website instead of as a recording, strengthening suspicions that Omar was no longer alive.
"If we look into our religious regulations, we can find that meetings and even peaceful interactions with the enemies are not prohibited," read the supposed statement from Omar. "Concurrently with armed jihad, political endeavors and peaceful pathways for achieving these sacred goals is a legitimate Islamic principle."
In another supposed message in June 2014, Omar was quoted as welcoming that Taliban "victory" over the US following a prisoner exchange of five senior Afghani Taliban prisoners for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.