Islamabad - Reports about death of the supreme leader of Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar led to postponement of second round of Afghan peace talks scheduled for today in Pakistan.

The Taliban confirmed the news of Omar’s death and appointed Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as their new supreme leader earlier on Thursday.

“In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks is being postponed”, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

Afghan officials sat down with Taliban cadres earlier this month in Murree, a holiday town in the hills north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, for their first face-to-face talks aimed at ending the bloody insurgency. They had agreed to meet again in the coming weeks, drawing international praise, and Afghan officials pledged to press for a ceasefire in the second round.

Earlier on Thursday the Taliban distanced themselves from the talks, saying the movement’s political office was “not aware of any such process”. “Media outlets are circulating reports that peace talks will take place very soon... either in the country of China or Pakistan,” the Taliban said in an English-language statement posted on their website on Thursday. “(Our) political office... is not aware of any such process.”

But hours later the Pakistani foreign ministry said the second round of talks had been postponed on request of Taliban leadership. The statement further said Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hope that Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

“It is further hoped that those forces, which due to their malafide intent wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs,” the statement concluded. The governments of United States and China, who had observer status during the first round of peace talks held in Murree on July 7, have been informed of the latest development.

A statement from the Afghan presidential palace on Wednesday, however, said grounds for the discussions are more solid now than before, and implored all insurgents to join the peace process. But many of the insurgents’ ground commanders have openly questioned the legitimacy of the Taliban negotiators, exposing dangerous faultlines within the movement.

MULLAH OMAR DID NOT DIE

IN PAKISTAN: TALIBAN

The Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of their leader Mullah Omar but did not say when or where he died. The statement says “his [Mullah Omar’s] health condition deteriorated in the last two weeks” and “not for a single day did he go to Pakistan”.

The statement went on to say that three days of religious ceremonies would be held “to pray for the soul of Mullah Omar”.

The militants said Omar died of “sickness”, citing family members, contradicting the Afghan government’s stance that the one-eyed warrior-cleric had passed away in Karachi. Afghanistan’s premier intelligence agency had also claimed Omar died in a Karachi hospital in April 2013.