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Taliban Announces New Leader as Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor

Afghanistan Officials Say Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Is Dead 1:11

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A former aviation minister in the Taliban regime reputedly known for his "patience" was appointed as the militant group's new leader Thursday following the apparent death of Mullah Omar.

The Taliban said in a statement that 50-year-old Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor is now in charge following a shura tribal council. He is the organization's former second-in-command and previously served as an aide to Omar.

The Afghan government declined to comment officially but a senior source within the administration confirmed the appointment to NBC News.

Image: Mullah Omar
Mullah Omar in an undated photo. Getty Images file

When Mansoor took power was not immediately clear, however.

The Afghan government said Thursday that it believes Omar died in a Pakistani hospital two years ago. Two senior Taliban figures and one senior Afghan intelligence official tell NBC News that Mansoor had been serving as de facto leader for the past two years.

He was formally appointed as leader after news of Omar's death was made public, the sources said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Meanwhile, the second round of peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban were postponed in light of Omar's death on the request of the Taliban leadership, hosts Pakistan said in a statement from its foreign ministry Thursday.

Related: Mullah Omar Is a Phantom in Life and Death

The senior Afghan intelligence official told NBC News that Mansoor had been among the senior Taliban members in favor of a deal and that his appointment would "help the peace process in the short term."

The new boss would face some "very powerful opposition" from factions of his group who were against the peace talks, the official added on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak publicly.

"He carefully listens to everyone and doesn't express any sign of anger on his face"

While Mansoor was named as "Emir of the Islamic Emirate," he was not granted the "Commander of the Faithful" title that Omar held — and which would've given him elevated status and authority.

Mansoor served as minister of aviation when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan. He remained alongside Omar even after the group was toppled by U.S. and coalition forces in 2001, two senior Taliban officials who are close friends of the new leader told NBC News.

He is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta and has two wives, the Taliban officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

One of the officials told NBC News that Mansoor was much calmer than other senior Taliban figures.

"He has an extraordinary level of patience," he said. "He carefully listens to everyone and doesn't express any sign of anger on his face."

Omar's death ended years of rumor the one-eyed leader of the militant group that ruled Afghanistan until being toppled by U.S.-backed forces 2001 had passed away. The State Department had offered a $10-million reward for information leading to him, saying Omar represented "a continuing threat to America and her allies."

Fazul Rahim reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.