When reports of Mullah Omar’s death started emerging on Wednesday, many took the news with a pinch of salt. After all, this was not the first time the reclusive head of the Afghan Taliban had been “killed”. Was he really dead? Was there irrefutable evidence this time? Or was this another attempt by intelligence agencies at forcing the elusive man to somehow reveal himself? With the second round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban scheduled for Friday, the timing is also a suspect. It seems that the legendary leader of the Taliban is truly dead – and has been for two years now – the final confirmation coming from the Taliban themselves, who have elected a new leader in Mullah Akhtar Mansoor after convening a Shura.

Mullah Omar, born in a small village in Kandahar, rose to prominence during the Soviet occupation and proved himself a capable fighter and commander. In the 1990s he led the Taliban movement and was the de facto head of the newly formed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; which later provided sanctuary and manpower to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, even in the face of massive international pressure to give him up. He has not been seen in public since the US invasion, serving more as a figurehead than an active commander. Yet even that has been slipping away in recent years; the increasing disintegration of the Taliban into various factions meant he had exercised only a tenuous hold over his organisation. Regardless, it is undeniable that the death of Mullah Omar is a blow to the Taliban. His cult status kept the group together, it is doubtful that his successor will be afforded the same deference.

His death, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it, raises many questions. If he has been dead since 2013, the fiction of his survival was meticulously maintained, which begs the question, how many were in on this fiction and will this deception affect the loyalty of the common Taliban foot soldier? It also puts a question mark over all the statements made ostensibly by Mullah Omar during this period – the most significant being his endorsement of the recent peace process. Who made these statements and will the Taliban abide by them? Much depends on the new leader, who is reportedly in favour of the talks, yet Mullah Omar’s death is surely a setback for the nascent dialogue – which has been postponed.

It also doesn’t bode well that reports indicate that that many senior Taliban commanders are not satisfied with the new ‘Supreme Leader’. With the Islamic State waiting in the wings and the peace process on the line, the future of the Taliban is in question. Of all the times Mullah Omar could have turned up dead, it does seems this is the worst.