Five things to know about Mullah Omar

Five things to know about Mullah Omar
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News reports on Wednesday provided the most credible evidence in years that Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead and has been dead for years.

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He has been a top outlaw for years, ever since his close associations with top al Qaeda leaders.

If the reclusive jihadist’s death is confirmed, it would bring an end to one of the largest manhunts in the world.

Here’s some more information about Mullah Omar:

He became leader of the Taliban nearly 20 years ago

Mullah Omar rose to prominence by fighting against Soviet forces in Afghanistan and helped unify multiple competing warlords to lead the Taliban — which means “students” in Pashto — following their defeat.

From 1996 until 2001, the group ruled Afghanistan with a severe brand of Islam, until it was forced out of power by a U.S.-led invasion.

Over those years, the Taliban provided refuge to al Qaeda and many of its leaders as they plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

For years, the U.S. State Department had kept a $10 million bounty on his head.

He only has one eye

One of Omar’s most defining characteristics is his missing eye.

The Taliban published an official biography of its leader in April stating he lost his right eye fighting the Soviet Union, according to Radio Free Europe.

It said that Omar left school in 1979 and began fighting Soviet forces following their invasion of his nation that year.

He was wounded four times, it added, at one point losing his right eye in a shrapnel blast.

He hasn’t been seen for years

Mullah Omar hasn’t been seen in public since the fall of the Taliban regime following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

For years, speculation mounted that he had escaped and was in hiding in Pakistan — much like al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in 2011 by U.S. commandos.

Mullah Omar and his core group of Taliban leaders were dubbed the “Quetta Shura” and were believed to have maintained some control over Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has held peace talks with the Afghan government

Before reports of his death, Mullah Omar gave his blessing to peace talks with the Afghan government.

"Concurrently with armed jihad, political endeavors and peaceful pathways for achieving these sacred goals is a legitimate Islamic principle and an integral part of Prophetic politics," he said in a statement earlier this month, according to CNN.

Top Afghan officials met with Taliban representatives in Pakistan this month in a attempt to bring a peaceful end to the group’s insurgency.

But it’s unclear whether the talks will succeed. In June, the Taliban pulled off one of its most brazen strikes yet, attacking the Afghan parliament. The attack left two dead and 28 wounded.

The U.S., Afghanistan and Taliban officials also tried to broker a peace agreement in 2013. But the talks quickly collapsed after the Taliban raised its flag outside of a peace office in Qatar, angering then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

This isn’t the first time he’s been reported dead

Since his disappearance, there has been repeated speculation that Mullah Omar may have died, either during fighting or from health-related reasons.

His invisibility from the public eye has only fueled those suspicions.

Unlike other extremists such as bin Laden, he has not issued videotaped screeds over the Internet. The Taliban had released periodic writings under his name, but it remained unclear whether he was in fact the author.

The new reports are different than those in the past, however.

For the first time, unidentified Afghan government officials are reporting his death, adding to the perceived legitimacy of new reports.

— Mark Hensch and Jordan Fabian contributed to this report.