The leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has died, Afghan officials say, but the militant group has not commented on the claim.
The reclusive leader died two to three years ago, Afghan government and intelligence sources said. No further details were released.
A Taliban spokesman contacted by the BBC said the group would issue a statement shortly.
There have been several reports of Mullah Omar’s death in the past.
However, this is the first to be confirmed by top sources in the Afghan government.
Mullah Omar led the Taliban to victory over rival Afghan militias in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops.
His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Mullah Omar has since been in hiding, with a $10m US state department bounty on his head.
Over the years, the Taliban have released several messages purported to be from the fugitive leader.
The latest of these statements, from mid-July, expressed support for peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
However, the message was in the form of a text published on a Taliban website, rather than an audio or video recording – fuelling rumours that the leader was dead or incapacitated.
The failure to prove that Mullah Omar was alive was a major factor behind the defection of several senior Taliban commanders to the so-called Islamic State group, according to the BBC’s former Kabul correspondent, David Loyn.
Mullah Mohammed Omar
- Taliban say he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in Kandahar province
- Fought in resistance against Soviet occupation in 1980s, suffering a shrapnel injury to his right eye
- Forged close ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden
- Became “Supreme Leader” of Taliban movement in 1996
- US-led forces overthrew his government in 2001; US state department has a $10m bounty on him
- Earlier this year the Taliban published a biography of him saying he does not own a home and has no foreign bank account, and saying he “has a special sense of humour (BBC News)