The Taliban leader Mullah Omar vowed to carry on the fight against U.S.-led forces despite the death of the group’s top field commander, a spokesman said Monday, insisting militants would press “his same type of jihad.”
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told The Associated Press that Omar and other militant leaders passed condolences to the family of Mullah Dadullah — the first Taliban confirmation of his death.
Ahmadi read a statement attributed to Omar insisting that militants will continue their attacks against “occupying countries.” He said Dadullah’s death “won’t create problems for the Taliban’s jihad.”
Dadullah, a one-legged militant who orchestrated a rash of Taliban suicide attacks and beheadings, died of gunshot wounds after a U.S.-led operation over the weekend in the southern province of Helmand.
No immediate replacement named
Ahmadi said Omar and his council of top Taliban leaders decided against naming an immediate replacement for Dadullah.
“Mullah Dadullah was the commander of all the fighting groups. Now all of the mujahedeen will carry on his same type of jihad. They will carry out attacks just as Mullah Dadullah did in his life,” Ahmadi quoted Omar as saying.
Dadullah was the second top-tier Taliban field commander to die in six months, after a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani in southern Afghanistan in December.
Ahmadi spoke by telephone from an undisclosed location and it was not possible to verify that he has access to Omar, whose whereabouts remain a mystery.
Afghan officials claim that Omar is living in Quetta, Pakistan, but Pakistani officials claim Omar is still somewhere across the border Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, directing the Taliban insurgency.
The reclusive leader — few photographs are known to exist of him — escaped the southern Afghan city of Kandahar during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He hasn’t been seen publicly since.
Ahmadi said that Omar had requested that the Afghan government return Dadullah’s body to his relatives for burial, and that “if they don’t the consequences will be very bad.”
But Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said officials buried Dadullah in Kandahar city on Monday. He said the burial was attended by friends but no family. He said he didn’t fear Omar’s threatened consequences.
“After this killing the Taliban has been weakened,” Khalid said. “And they’re going to become weaker and weaker every day.”