WASHINGTON: The US capital was abuzz with claims and counter-claims since Tuesday morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has removed the name of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar from its list of 'most wanted terrorists'.
The report, attributed to unidentified officials but not backed by reliable sources, claimed that the US decision to remove his name from the list reflected Washington's desire to improve ties with the Taliban insurgents.
Last week, US officials confirmed that they had held talks recently with Taliban representatives in Qatar and Germany.
The US also supported a move to open a Taliban political office in Qatar, which will serve as an outpost for the outlawed insurgent movement.
Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban movement, has been in hiding since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled his regime.
US officials earlier claimed that he was one of the original planners of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The US invaded Afghanistan to end the Taliban rule because of its alleged link to Al Qaeda, whose chief Osama bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden was killed in a US raid on his compound in Abbottabad on May 2.
Since last month, however, US officials have begun dis-tancing the Taliban from Al Qaeda, saying that they invaded Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda extremists and not the Taliban.
Although the claim that Mullah Omar has been removed from FBI's most wanted list has not been denied by US officials, a respectable US news magazine, The Atlantic, pointed out in a post on its site that the Taliban leader was never on this list.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson, when asked to comment on the claimed, confirmed to various US media outlets that Mullah Omar was never on the list.
But he stays on a State Department list of foreign terrorists, which also offers cash reward for his capture.