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Mullah Mohammed Omar ( ) (born c. 1959, Nodeh, near Kandaharmarker) often simply called Mullah Omar, is the leader of the Taliban of Afghanistanmarker and was Afghanistan's de facto head of state, and was recognized by three states, from 1996 to 2001, under the official title of Head of the Supreme Council. He held the title Commander of the Faithful from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. He is wanted by U.S.marker authorities for sheltering "Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda network in the years prior to and the period during and immediately after the September 11 attacks". He is believed to be directing the Taliban in their war against Hamid Karzai's Government and foreign NATOmarker troops in Afghanistan from Pakistanmarker.

Despite his political rank, and his high status on the FBImarker's wanted list, not much is publicly known about Omar. Few photos, none of them official, exist of him and a picture used in 2002 by many media, has since been established to be another Taliban official. The authenticity of the existing images is debated. Apart from the fact that he is missing one eye, accounts of his physical appearance are contradictory: some people who have met him describe him as a tall man, while others describe him as small and frail. He has been described as shy and untalkative with foreigners.

During his tenure as Emir of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left Kandahar and rarely met with outsiders, instead relying on Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil for the majority of diplomatic necessities.

Childhood

Omar is thought to have been born around 1959 to a family of "poor, landless peasants," growing up in mud huts in the village in the Maiwandmarker area of Kandahar province. Some reports state he was born in the village of Nodeh, near Kandahar Citymarker. He is an ethnic Pashtun from the Hotak tribe, which is part of the larger Ghilzai branch. His father is said to have died before he was born and the responsibility of fending for his family fell to him as he grew older.

Soviet invasion and radicalization

Omar fought as a guerilla with the Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami faction of the anti-Sovietmarker Mujahideen under the command of Nek Mohammad, and fought against the Najibullah regime between 1989 and 1992. It was reported that he was thin, but tall and strongly built, and "a crack marksman who had destroyed many Soviet tanks during the Afghan War."

Omar was wounded four times, and lost an eye either in 1986 or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad, which also marred his cheek and forehead. Taliban lore has it that, upon being wounded by a piece of shrapnel, Omar removed his own eye and sewed the eyelid shut. However, reports from a Red Crossmarker facility near the Pakistan border indicate that Omar was treated there for the injury, where his eye was surgically removed.

After he was disabled, Omar may have studied and taught in a madrasah, or Islamic seminary, in the Pakistani border city of Quettamarker. He was reportedly a mullah at a village madrasah near the Afghan city of Kandahar.

Unlike many Afghan mujahideen, Omar speaks Arabic. He was devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, and took a job teaching in a madrassa in Quettamarker. He later moved to Binoori Mosque in Karachimarker, where he led prayers, and later met with Osama bin Laden for the first time.

Forming the Taliban

Following the Sovietmarker withdrawal from Afghanistanmarker in 1989 and the collapse of the Communist regime in Kabulmarker in 1992, the country fell into chaos as various mujahideen factions fought for control. Omar returned to Singesar and founded a madrassah. According to one legend, in 1994 he had a dream in which a woman told him: "We need your help; you must rise. You must end the chaos. God will help you." Mullah Omar started his movement with less than 50 armed madrassah students, known simply as the Taliban (Students). His recruits came from madrassahs in Afghanistan and Pakistan and from the Afghan refugee camps across the border in Pakistan. They fought against the rampant corruption that had emerged in the civil war period and were initially welcomed by Afghans weary of warlord rule.

Reportedly, in early 1994, Omar led 30 men armed with 16 rifles to free two teenage girls who had been kidnapped and raped by a warlord's group; hanging the local commander from a tank barrel. His movement gained momentum through the year, and he quickly gathered recruits from Islamic schools. By November 1994, Omar's movement managed to capture the province of Kandahar and then captured Herat in September 1995.

Another, possibly apocryphal, story suggests that he rose to power in 1994 after two local warlords waged a full-scale tank battle in Kandaharmarker's central bazaar, after a fall-out over the affections of a young boy; and he led religious students to take control of the city.

Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

In April 1996, supporters of Mullah Omar bestowed on him the title Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين, "Commander of the Faithful"), after he donned a cloak alleged to be that of Muhammad out of a series of chests it was locked in, held in a shrine in Kandahar. Legend decreed that whoever could retrieve the cloak from the chests would be the great Leader of the Muslims, or "Amir al-Mu'minin". In September that year, Kabulmarker fell to Mullah Omar and his followers.

Under Omar's rule, Sharia was enforced causing crime to diminish. The civil war continued. His Afghanistan was named Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in October 1997.

A "reclusive, pious and frugal" leader, Omar visited Kabul twice between 1996 to 2001.

Omar stated: "All Taliban are moderate. There are two things: extremism ["ifraat", or doing something to excess] and conservatism ["tafreet", or doing something insufficiently]. So in that sense, we are all moderates – taking the middle path.

In hiding

A face shot photo thought to be Mohammed Omar, although this is disputed.
After the NATOmarker invasion of Afghanistanmarker began in 2001, Omar went into hiding and is still at large. He is thought to be in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistanmarker and Pakistanmarker. The United States offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture.

Claiming that the Americans had circulated 'propaganda' that Mullah Omar had gone into hiding, Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil stated that he would like to "propose that prime minister Blair and president Bush take Kalashnikovs and come to a specified place where Omar will also appear to see who will run and who not". He stated that Omar was (merely) changing locations due to security reasons.

In the opening weeks of October 2001, Omar's house in Kandaharmarker was bombed, killing his stepfather and his 10-year old son.

Omar is believed to have played a significant role in the ending of the Waziristan War between Waziri Pashtuns and the government of Pakistan in September, 2006. He continues to have the allegiance of prominent pro-Taliban military leaders in the region, including Jalaluddin Haqqani. Former foe Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction has also reportedly allied with Omar and the Taliban.

In April 2004 Omar, with Mohammad Shehzad had a telephone interview.During the interview, Omar claimed that Osama Bin Laden was alive and well, and that his last contact with Bin Laden was months before the interview. Omar declared that the Taliban were "hunting Americans like pigs".

A captured Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Hanif, told Afghan authorities in January 2007, that Omar was being protected by the Inter-Services Intelligence in Quettamarker, Pakistan. This matches an allegation made by the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, in 2006, though it is denied by officials in Pakistan.

Numerous statements have been released identified as coming from Omar. In June 2006 a statement regarding the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraqmarker was released hailing al-Zarqawi as a martyr and claimed that the resistance movements in Afghanistan and Iraq "will not be weakened". Then in December 2006 Omar reportedly issued a statement expressing confidence that foreign forces will be driven out of Afghanistan.

In January 2007, it was reported that Omar made his 'first exchange with a journalist since going into hiding' in 2001, with Muhammad Hanif via email and courier. In it he promised 'more Afghan War', and said the 100+ suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan in the last year had been carried out by bombers acting on religious orders from the Taliban – “the mujahedeen do not take any action without a fatwa.” In April 2007, Omar issued another statement through an intermediary encouraging more suicide attacks.

In November 2009, the Washington Times reported that Omar, assisted by the ISI, had moved to Karachimarker in October.

Notes

  1. Rashid, Taliban, (2001) p.23
  2. CNN.com - Source: Mullah Omar in Pakistan - Sep 9, 2006
  3. Who is the real Mullah Omar?, Daily Telegraph, 22 december 2001
  4. Christian Science Monitor, The reclusive ruler who runs the Taliban
  5. Afghanistan: Taliban Preps for Bloody Assault, Newsweek, 5 march 2007
  6. Rashid, Taliban, (2001)
  7. Rashid, Taliban (2000), p.23
  8. Ismail Khan, `Mojaddedi Opposes Elevation of Taliban's Omar,` Islamabad the News, April 6, 1996, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  9. Williams, Paul L., "Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror", 2002
  10. Arnaud de Borchgrave, `Osama bin Laden - Null and Void,` UPI, June 14, 2001, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  11. interview with Farraj Ismail, by Lawrence Wright in Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  12. Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  13. Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 2009; orig. ed. 2008), p. 30.
  14. Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 2009; orig. ed. 2008), p. 30.
  15. Benjamin, Daniel & Steven Simon. "The Age of Sacred Terror", 2002
  16. Goodson (2001) p. 107
  17. Bergen, Peter, "Holy War, Inc.", 2001
  18. Messages by Al-Qaeda Operatives in Afghanistan to the Peoples of the West "... alongside the Emir of the Believers..." September 2005
  19. Griffiths, John C. "Afghanistan: A History of Conflict", 1981. Second Revision 2001.
  20. The authenticity of this picture is disputed.
  21. Independent Online, Taliban challenges Bush and Blair to a duel, November 5, 2001
  22. Independent Online, Refugees say Taliban leader's son killed, October 11, 2001
  23. 'We are hunting Americans like pigs'
  24. Mullah Omar 'hiding in Pakistan', BBC, 18 January 2007.
  25. Taliban Leader Promises More Afghan War - New York Times


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