Mohammed Omar

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For those of a similar name, see Mohamed Omer (disambiguation).
Mullah
Mohammed Omar
ملا محمد عمر
Head of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan
In office
27 September 1996 – 13 November 2001
Prime Minister Mohammad Rabbani
Abdul Kabir (Acting)
Preceded by Burhanuddin Rabbani (President)
Succeeded by Burhanuddin Rabbani (President)
Personal details
Born c. 1959 (age 54–55)
Nodeh, Urozgan Province, Kingdom of Afghanistan[1][2]
Political party Islamic and National Revolution Movement of Afghanistan
Taliban
Alma mater Darul Uloom Haqqania
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Battles/wars Soviet war in Afghanistan
Afghan civil war
War in Afghanistan

Mullah Mohammed Omar (Pashto: ملا محمد عمر‎, Mullā Muḥammad ‘Umar; born c. 1959), often simply called Mullah Omar, is the spiritual leader of the Taliban. He was Afghanistan's de facto 11th head of state from 1996 to late 2001, under the official title "Head of the Supreme Council". He held the title Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which was recognized by only three nations: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Mullah Omar has been wanted by the United States Department of State's Rewards for Justice program since October 2001, for sheltering Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda militants in the years prior to the September 11 attacks.[3] Those who were close to him say that, in line with international legal procedure, he requested evidence from the United States regarding bin Laden and his alleged hand in the 9/11 attacks but did not receive any.[4] He is believed to be directing the Taliban insurgency against the United States armed forces-led International Security Assistance Force and the government of Afghanistan.[5][6]

Despite his political rank and his high status on the Rewards for Justice most wanted list,[3] not much is publicly known about him. Few photos exist of him, none of them official, and a picture used in 2002 by many media outlets has since been established to be someone other than him. The authenticity of the existing images is debated.[7] Apart from the fact that he is missing one eye, accounts of his physical appearance are contradictory: Omar is described as very tall (some say 2 m).[8][9] Mullah Omar has been described as shy and non-talkative with foreigners.[10]

During his tenure as Emir of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left the city of Kandahar and rarely met with outsiders,[8] instead relying on Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil for the majority of diplomatic necessities. Many[who?], including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, claim that Mullah Omar and his Taliban movement are used as puppets by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Omar is thought to have been born around 1959 or 1962 in the village of Nodeh in the Deh Rahwod District[2] of Urozgan Province[1][11] of Afghanistan to a landless peasant family.[12] He is an ethnic Pashtun from the Hotak tribe, which is part of the larger Ghilzai branch.[13] 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.[14]

Omar fought as a soldier with the anti-soviet Mujahideen under the command of Nek Mohammad and others, but did not fight against the Najibullah regime between 1989 and 1992.[14] 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."[15]

Omar was wounded four times. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef claims to have been present when shrapnel destroyed one of his eyes during a battle in Sangsar, Panjwaye District shortly before the 1987 Battle of Arghandab.[16] Other sources place this event in 1986[17] or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad.[18]

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

Unlike many Afghan mujahideen, Omar speaks Arabic.[19] He was devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam,[20] and took a job teaching in a madrassa in Quetta. He later moved to a Mosque in Karachi, where he led prayers, and later met with Osama bin Laden for the first time.[8]

Forming the Taliban[edit]

Taliban police in a pickup truck patrolling a street in Herat, in July 2001.

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of Najibullah's Soviet-backed regime in 1992, the country fell into chaos as various mujahideen factions fought for control. Omar returned to Singesar and founded a madrassah.[21] 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. Allah will help you."[21] Mullah Omar started his movement with less than 50 armed madrassah students, known simply as the Taliban (Students). His recruits came from sand madrassahs in Afghanistan 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 youths who had been kidnapped and raped by a warlord, hanging the local commander from a tank gun barrel. The youths were two young girls. 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 whole of the Kandahar Province and then captured Herat in September 1995.[22]

Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan[edit]

In April 1996, supporters of Mullah Omar bestowed on him the title Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين, "Commander of the Faithful"),[23] after he donned a cloak alleged to be that of Muhammad which was locked in a series of chests, held inside the Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed in the city of Kandahar. Legend decreed that whoever could retrieve the cloak from the chest would be the great Leader of the Muslims, or "Amir al-Mu'minin".[24]

In September 1996, Kabul fell to Mullah Omar and his followers. The civil war continued in the northeast corner of the country, near Tajikistan. The nation was named the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in October 1997 and was recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A "reclusive, pious and frugal" leader,[8] 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.[25]

In a BBC's Pashto interview after the September 11 attacks in 2001, he told that "You (the BBC) and American puppet radios have created concern. But the current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause – that is the destruction of America...This is not a matter of weapons. We are hopeful for Allah's help. The real matter is the extinction of America. And, Allah willing, it [America] will fall to the ground..."[26]

In hiding[edit]

I am considering two promises. One is the promise of Allah, the other of Bush. The promise of Allah is that my land is vast...the promise of Bush is that there is no place on Earth where I can hide that he won't find me. We shall see which promise is fulfilled.

—Mullah Omar, 2001

After the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom began in early October 2001, Omar went into hiding and is still at large. He is thought to be in the Pashtun tribal region of Afghanistan or Pakistan. The United States is offering a reward of US$10 million for information leading to his capture.[3] In November 2001, he ordered Taliban troops to abandon Kabul and take to the mountains, noting that "defending the cities with front lines that can be targeted from the air will cause us terrible loss".[27]

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.[28]

In the opening weeks of October 2001, Omar's house in Kandahar was bombed, killing his stepfather and his 10-year-old son.[29]

Mullah Omar continues to have the allegiance of prominent pro-Taliban military leaders in the region, including Jalaluddin Haqqani. The former foe Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction has also reportedly allied with Omar and the Taliban. In April 2004, Omar was interviewed via phone by Pakistani journalist Mohammad Shehzad.[30] 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."[30]

A captured Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Hanif, told Afghan authorities in January 2007, that Omar was being protected by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Quetta, Pakistan.[31] This matches an allegation made in 2006 by the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, 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 Iraq was released hailing al-Zarqawi as a martyr and claimed that the resistance movements in Afghanistan and Iraq "will not be weakened".[32] Then in December 2006 Omar reportedly issued a statement expressing confidence that foreign forces will be driven out of Afghanistan.[33]

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 over one hundred 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.”[34] In April 2007, Omar issued another statement through an intermediary encouraging more suicide attacks.[35]

In November 2009, The Washington Times claimed that Omar, assisted by the ISI, had moved to Karachi in October.[36] In January 2010, Brigadier Amir Sultan Tarar, a retired officer with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency who previously trained Omar, said that he was ready to break with his al-Qaida allies in order to make peace in Afghanistan: "The moment he gets control the first target will be the al-Qaida people."[37]

In January 2011, The Washington Post, citing a report from the Eclipse Group, a privately operated intelligence network that may be contracted by the CIA, stated that Omar had suffered a heart attack on 7 January 2011. According to the report, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency rushed Omar to a hospital near Karachi where he was operated on, treated, and then released several days later. Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, stated that the report "had no basis whatsoever".[38]

On 23 May 2011, TOLO News in Afghanistan quoted unnamed sources saying Omar had been killed by ISI two days earlier. These reports remain unconfirmed.[39] A spokesman for the militant group said shortly after the news came out. "Reports regarding the killing of Amir-ul-Moemineen (Omar) are false. He is safe and sound and is not in Pakistan but Afghanistan."[40] On 20 July 2011, phone text messages from accounts used by Taliban spokesmen Zabihullah Mujahid and Qari Mohammad Yousuf announced Omar's death. Mujahid and Yousuf, however, quickly denied sending the messages, claimed that their mobile phones, websites, and e-mail accounts had been hacked, and they swore revenge on the telephone network providers.[41]

In 2012, it was revealed that an individual claiming to be Omar sent a letter to President Barack Obama in 2011, expressing slight interest in peace talks.[42][43]

On 31 May 2014, in return for American prisoner of war Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, five senior Afghan detainees were released from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Omar reportedly hailed their release.[44]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Q+A: Leader of Afghanistan's Taliban Mullah Omar: who is he?". Reuters. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2012. "Most reports have it that Mullah Omar, an ethnic Pashtun, was born into an impoverished family in the town of Nodeh in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province, some time between 1959 and 1962. After studying at several Islamic schools, he emerged as a Muslim cleric." 
  2. ^ a b "Strengthening the humanity and dignity of people in crisis through knowledge and practice". Feinstein Research Center. August 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012. "Politically and tribally, Uruzgan is part of “greater Kandahar,” and the origin of many of the Taliban’s original leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was born in Deh Rawood District." 
  3. ^ a b c "Wanted Information leading to the location of Mullah Omar Up to $10 Million Reward". Rewards for Justice Program, U.S. Department of State. 
  4. ^ Abdul Salam Zaeef – "My life with the Taliban"
  5. ^ Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN), No word from Islamabad on Omar's arrest, 6 July 2010.
  6. ^ "Source: Mullah Omar in Pakistan". CNN. 9 September 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  7. ^ Cooper, Anderson (7 September 2006). "Will the real Mullah Omar please stand up?". CNN. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Griffiths, John C. Afghanistan: A History of Conflict, 1981. Second Revision, 2001.
  9. ^ Christian Science Monitor, The reclusive ruler who runs the Taliban
  10. ^ Afghanistan: Taliban Preps for Bloody Assault, Newsweek. 5 March 2007
  11. ^ Background and motives: Who is Mullah Omar? – The Express Tribune. Tribune.com.pk. Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  12. ^ FACTBOX: Five Facts on Taliban Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Reuters (17 November 2008). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  13. ^ Rashid, Taliban, (2001)
  14. ^ a b Rashid, Taliban (2000), p. 23
  15. ^ Ismail Khan, `Mojaddedi Opposes Elevation of Taliban's Omar,` Islamabad the News, 6 April 1996, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  16. ^ Abdul Salam Zaeef (2010) My Life with the Taliban
  17. ^ Williams, Paul L., "Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror", 2002
  18. ^ Arnaud de Borchgrave, `Osama bin Laden – Null and Void,` UPI, 14 June 2001, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  19. ^ interview with Farraj Ismail, by Lawrence Wright in Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  20. ^ Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  21. ^ a b Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 2009; orig. ed. 2008), p. 30.
  22. ^ Goodson (2001) p. 107
  23. ^ Messages by Al-Qaeda Operatives in Afghanistan to the Peoples of the West "... alongside the Emir of the Believers..." September 2005
  24. ^ Healy, Patrick (19 December 2001). "Kandahar residents feel betrayed". San Francisco Chronicle. The Boston Globe. 
  25. ^ "On whether moderate Taliban will join the new Afghani government". BBC News. 15 November 2001. 
  26. ^ Interview with Mullah Omar – transcript. BBC News (15 November 2001). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  27. ^ Stephen Tanner, Afghanistan: A Military History, 2008
  28. ^ Independent Online, Taliban challenges Bush and Blair to a duel, 5 November 2001
  29. ^ Independent Online, Refugees say Taliban leader's son killed, 11 October 2001
  30. ^ a b "The Rediff Interview/Mullah Omar". Rediff.com. 12 April 2004. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  31. ^ "Mullah Omar 'hiding in Pakistan'", BBC News, 18 January 2007.
  32. ^ "Taliban play down Zarqawi death". BBC News. 9 June 2006. Retrieved 2 July 2006. 
  33. ^ "Mullah Omar issues Eid message". Al Jazeera. 31 December 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2007. 
  34. ^ Taliban Leader Promises More Afghan War – New York Times. Nytimes.com. Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  35. ^ "Taliban's elusive leader urges more suicide raids". Reuters. 21 April 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2009. 
  36. ^ Lake, Eli; Carter, Sara A.; Slavin, Barbara (20 November 2009). "EXCLUSIVE: Taliban chief hides in Pakistan". The Washington Times. Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  37. ^ "Afghan Taliban leader ready to end al-Qaida ties, says former trainer – Mullah Muhammad Omar 'a good man' and wants peace in Afghanistan, says Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar". The Guardian (London) (29 January 2010). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  38. ^ Agence France-Presse, "Pakistan 'treated Taliban leader'", The Japan Times, 20 January 2011, p. 1.
  39. ^ "Taliban leader Mullah Omar killed". Presstv.ir (23 May 2011). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  40. ^ "Afghan Taliban say leader Mullah Omar 'safe and sound'". Reuters. 23 May 2011. 
  41. ^ Shalizi, Hamid, Reuters, "Taliban say Mullah Omar death report false, phone hacked", Yahoo! News, 20 July 2011.
  42. ^ "Taliban leader Mullah Omar 'sent letter to Barack Obama'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  43. ^ "Amid peace bid, U.S. received purported letter from Taliban". Reuters. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  44. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27655308

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Interviews
Articles

Declassified documents[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Burhanuddin Rabbani
as President of Afghanistan
Head of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan
1996–2001
Succeeded by
Burhanuddin Rabbani
as President of Afghanistan