KABUL, Afghanistan — In this Murdochian age, it somehow seems inevitable: The Taliban movement says it was phone-hacked.
Moreover, the subject was the most sensitive possible, at least in the insurgents' eyes: the status of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the group's supreme leader.
The group declared Wednesday that text messages announcing Omar's death from heart failure were fake, and said the phone logs of its main spokesmen, together with the Taliban website, had apparently been tampered with.
Earlier Wednesday, text and e-mail messages, purportedly from accounts used by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, had announced the death of the Amir ul-Momineen, or Commander of the Faithful, as Omar is known. The Taliban leader has been on the run for nearly 10 years, ever since U.S. officials placed a multimillion-dollar bounty on his head in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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Mujahid, whose voice is recognizable to those who have spoken to him, denied in a telephone conversation that he was the sender of the messages, and insisted that Omar was alive and directing Taliban operations in Afghanistan.
The reclusive Taliban leader has long been thought by Western officials to be based in or near the Pakistani city of Quetta, though there were reports after the killing of Osama bin Laden that he had been moved to another location. Rumors of his death have surfaced periodically over the years.
Soon after the latest reports began circulating, Mujahid and another principal spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, sent out e-mails angrily denouncing the actions of a "cunning enemy" who had committed what they described as "technical larceny."
The statements added that the "technical workers of the Islamic Emirate's Information and Cultural commission" — effectively, the Taliban's IT team — had opened an investigation into the incident. Mujahid, somewhat ominously, said the possible role of mobile-phone companies and Internet providers would be investigated.