The Taliban's official spokesman disavowed peace talks with the Afghan government on Thursday, throwing fledgling efforts to negotiate an end to 14 years of war into disarray.
The statement came a day after the Afghan government said that Mullah Omar, the elusive supreme leader of the Islamist militant movement, had died two years ago in neighboring Pakistan.
News of Omar's demise is likely to intensify a struggle within the deeply divided group to succeed him, clouding chances of a peace process that had already run into trouble.
In a reminder of the threat posed by insurgents stepping up their campaign to overthrow the Western-backed government, the Taliban captured a district in the southern province of Helmand that foreign troops struggled to secure for years.
The Taliban has taken control of pockets of territory across the country since NATO withdrew most of its forces at the end of 2014, leaving the Afghan army and police to quell the violence. Thousands of people are killed each year.
"We have heard from the news media that the second round of talks between the Islamic Emirate and the Kabul administration will start soon in Pakistan or China," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.