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Mohammed Omar
ملا محمد عمر
File:Rewards for Justice Mullah Omar.png
1993 ID photo of Mohammed Omar, according to Khalid Hadi[1]
Amir al-Mu'minin
Assumed office
April 1996 - present
Amir of the Taliban
Assumed office
October 1994 - present
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 1950–1962[2]
Kandahar Province, Kingdom of Afghanistan
(or Uruzgan Province, Kingdom of Afghanistan)
Alma mater Darul Uloom Haqqania
Religion Deobandi Sunni Islam[3]
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Jihad.svg Mujahideen (1979-1989)[4]
Flag of Taliban.svg Taliban (1994-present)[5]
Years of service 1979-1989
Rank Commander
Battles/wars Soviet war in Afghanistan
Afghan civil war
War in Afghanistan

Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid (Pashto language: ملا محمد عمر مجاهد, Mullā Muḥammad ‘Umar Mujáhid; born 1950–1962[2]), often simply called Mullah Omar, is the spiritual leader and commander 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.[6] 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.[7][8]

Despite his political rank and his high status on the Rewards for Justice most wanted list,[6] not much is publicly known about him. Only two 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. There is a lack of images of him, because it is against original Islamic law.[9] 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).[10][11] Mullah Omar has been described as shy and non-talkative with foreigners.[12]

During his tenure as Emir of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left the city of Kandahar and rarely met with outsiders,[10] instead relying on Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil for the majority of diplomatic necessities.

Personal life

According to most sources Omar was born sometime between 1950 and 1962[2] in a village in Kandahar Province, Kingdom of Afghanistan (in present-day Kandahar Province or Uruzgan Province).[13][14] Some suggest his birth year as 1950[15][16] or 1953,[17] or as late as around 1966.[17][18] His exact place of birth is also uncertain, one possibility is a village called Nodeh near the city of Kandahar.[19][20][21] Matinuddin writes that he was born in 1961 in Nodeh village, Panjwai District, Kandahar Province.[22] Others say Omar was born in a village of the same name in Uruzgan Province.[14] In Omar's entry in the UNSC's Taliban Sanctions List, 'Nodeh village, Deh Rahwod District, Uruzgan Province' is given as a possible birthplace.[17] Other reports say Omar was born in 1960 in Noori village near Kandahar.[23] 'Noori village, Maiwand District, Kandahar Province' is a second location suggested in Omar's entry in the Sanctions List.[17] Better established than Omar's place of birth is that his childhood home was in Deh Rahwod District, Uruzgan Province, having moved to a village there with his uncle after the death of his father[13] (though some identify the district as Omar's birthplace).[24]

An ethnic Pashtun, he was born in conservative rural Afghanistan to a poor landless family of the Hotak tribe, which is part of the larger Ghilzai branch.[19] According to Hamid Karzai, "Omar's father was a local religious leader, but the family was poor and had absolutely no political links in Kandahar or Kabul. They were essentially lower middle class Afghans and were definitely not members of the elite."[25] His father Mawlawi Ghulam Nabi[17] Akhund died when Omar was young.[13] According to Omar's own words he was three years old when his father died, and thereafter he was raised by his uncles.[26] One of his uncles married Omar's mother, and the family moved to a village in the poor Deh Rawod District, where the uncle was a religious teacher.[13] It is reported that they lived in the village of Dehwanawark, close to the town of Deh Rahwod.[27]

Omar fought as a rebel 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.[19] 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."[28]

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.[29] Other sources place this event in 1986[30] or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad.[31]

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.[32] He was devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam,[33] and took a job teaching in a madrassa in Quetta, Pakistan. He later moved to a Mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, where he led prayers, and later met with Osama bin Laden for the first time.[10]

Forming the Taliban

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of Najibullah's regime in 1992, the country fell into chaos as various mujahideen factions fought for control. Mullah Omar returned to Singesar[when?] and founded a madrassah.[34] 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."[34] 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 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.

The practice of Bacha bazi by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilizing the Taliban.[35] 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 him from a tank gun barrel. The youths were two young girls.[36] Another instance arose when in 1994, a few months before the Taliban took control of Kandahar, two militia commanders confronted each other over a young boy whom they both wanted to sodomize. In the ensuing fight, Omar’s group executed both men, freed the boy and appeals began flooding in for Omar to help in other disputes.[37] His movement gained momentum through the year, and he quickly gathered recruits from Islamic schools. By November 1994, Mullah Omar's movement managed to capture the whole of the Kandahar Province and then captured Herat in September 1995.[5]

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"),[38] 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".[39]

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,[10] 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.[40]

According to Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, Mullah Omar stated in the late 1990s that "We have told Osama not to use Afghan soil to carry out political activities as it creates unnecessary confusion about Taliban objectives."[41]

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 God's help. The real matter is the extinction of America. And, God willing, it [America] will fall to the ground..."[42]

In exile

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.[6] 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".[43]

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.[44]

In the opening weeks of October 2001, Omar's house in Kandahar was bombed, killing his 10-year-old son and his uncle.[45]

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.[46] 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."[46]

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.[47]

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".[48] Then in December 2006 Omar reportedly issued a statement expressing confidence that foreign forces will be driven out of Afghanistan.[49]

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.”[50] In April 2007, Omar issued another statement through an intermediary encouraging more suicide attacks.[51]

In November 2009, The Washington Times claimed that Omar, assisted by the ISI, had moved to Karachi in October.[52] 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."[53]

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".[54]

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.[55] 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."[56] 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.[57]

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.[58][59]

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.[60]

On 23 September, Omar's aide, Abdul Rahman Nika, was killed along with senior Taliban leader Mullah Zaker by Afghan security forces.[61] According to Afghan intelligence service spokesman Abdul Nasheed Sediqi, Nika had coordinated the kidnapping of 3 Indian engineers on 13 August who were rescued south of Kabul by intelligence services. He was involved in most of the Taliban's attacks in western Afghanistan and was a member of the insurgent group Quetta Shura's council.


  1. Grazda, Edward (February 2003). "Searching for Mullah Omar". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Shane, Scott (October 10, 2009). "Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds, Vexing U.S.". Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  3. Deobandi Islam: The Religion of the Taliban U. S. Navy Chaplain Corps, 15 October 2001
  4."From 1979 to 1989, participated in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Goodson (2001) p. 107
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Wanted Information leading to the location of Mullah Omar Up to $10 Million Reward". Rewards for Justice Program, U.S. Department of State. 
  7. Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN), No word from Islamabad on Omar's arrest, 6 July 2010.
  8. "Source: Mullah Omar in Pakistan". CNN. 9 September 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2010. 
  9. Cooper, Anderson (7 September 2006). "Will the real Mullah Omar please stand up?". CNN. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Griffiths, John C. Afghanistan: A History of Conflict, 1981. Second Revision, 2001.
  11. Christian Science Monitor, The reclusive ruler who runs the Taliban
  12. Afghanistan: Taliban Preps for Bloody Assault, Newsweek. 5 March 2007
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Coll, Steve (23 January 2012). "Looking For Mullah Omar". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 FACTBOX: Five Facts on Taliban Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Reuters (17 November 2008). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  15. Shane, Scott (10 October 2009). "A Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds, Vexing U.S.". International New York Times. 
  16. "Mohammad Omar". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 United Nations Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011). "The List of individuals and entities established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1988 (2011)"
  18. Mickolus, Edward F.; Simmons, Susan L. (2011). The Terrorist List. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International. p. 200. ISBN 9780313374715. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Rashid, Taliban, (2001)
  20. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 1995. p. 33. "The top leader is believed to be Maulvi Mohammad Umar Amir, who was born in Nodeh (village) in Kandhar, and is now settled in Singesar. He was wounded four times in the battles against the Soviets and his right eye is permanently damaged. He took part in the "Jehad" under the late Hizb-e-Islami Khalis Commander Nek Mohammad." 
  21. Yunas, S. Fida (1997). Afghanistan: Political Parties, Groups, Movements and Mujahideen Alliances and Governments 1879-1997. Vol. 2. p. 876. "Amir of the Taliban and commander of its Mohammadi Lashkar. Born in Nodeh village in Kandhar, now lives in Singesar village in Kuashke Nakhud area of Kandahar's Maiwand district. His family once shifted to Tarinkot, capital of Uruzgan province, before settling in Singesar." 
  22. Matinuddin, Kamal (1999). The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan 1994-1997. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 222. ISBN 9780195792744. 
  23. Mullah ((Omar)) and the Council of Ministers (Intelligence Information Report). U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. 7 November 2001. 
  24. "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." 
  25. "Afghanistan: The Enigmatic Mullah Omar and Taliban Decision-Making". WikiLeaks. 28 March 1997. WikiLeaks cable: 97ISLAMABAD2533_a. 
  26. Mohammed Omar. "[Who is behind the Taliban?]" (in Arabic). من وراء طالبان / Man warā’ Ṭālibān?. (Interview).  Audio link (in Pashto with Arabic voiceover).
  27. Gall, Carlotta (22 May 2002). "Seeking Mullah Omar in a Land of Secrets". New York Times. 
  28. Ismail Khan, `Mojaddedi Opposes Elevation of Taliban's Omar,` Islamabad the News, 6 April 1996, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  29. Abdul Salam Zaeef (2010) My Life with the Taliban
  30. Williams, Paul L., "Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror", 2002
  31. Arnaud de Borchgrave, `Osama bin Laden – Null and Void,` UPI, 14 June 2001, quoted in Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  32. interview with Farraj Ismail, by Lawrence Wright in Looming Tower, (2006), p.226
  33. Wright, Looming Tower, (2006), p. 226
  34. 34.0 34.1 Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 2009; orig. ed. 2008), p. 30.
  35. "one of the original provocations for the Taliban's rise to power in the early 1990s was their outrage over pedophilia."
  36. "Inside The Taliban". Inside The Taliban. Afghanistan: National Geographic 
  37. Reid, Tim (January 12, 2002). "Kandahar comes out of the closet". The Times. Archived at Free Republic. Quote: "The rape of young boys by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilising the Taleban....In the summer of 1994, a few months before the Taleban took control of the city, two commanders confronted each other over a young boy whom they both wanted to sodomise. In the ensuing fight, Omar’s group freed the boy and appeals began flooding in for Omar to help in other disputes."
  38. Messages by Al-Qaeda Operatives in Afghanistan to the Peoples of the West "... alongside the Emir of the Believers..." September 2005
  39. Healy, Patrick (19 December 2001). "Kandahar residents feel betrayed". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  40. "On whether moderate Taliban will join the new Afghani government". BBC News. 15 November 2001. 
  41. "The reclusive ruler who runs the Taliban". October 10, 2001. Retrieved 9/09/2014. 
  42. Interview with Mullah Omar – transcript. BBC News (15 November 2001). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  43. Stephen Tanner, Afghanistan: A Military History, 2008
  44. Independent Online, Taliban challenges Bush and Blair to a duel, 5 November 2001
  45. Independent Online, "They said Mullah Omar's natural father had died years before and, following Afghan custom, his mother had married his uncle."Refugees say Taliban leader's son killed, 11 October 2001
  46. 46.0 46.1 "The Rediff Interview/Mullah Omar". 12 April 2004. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  47. "Mullah Omar 'hiding in Pakistan'", BBC News, 18 January 2007.
  48. "Taliban play down Zarqawi death". BBC News. 9 June 2006. Retrieved 2 July 2006. 
  49. "Mullah Omar issues Eid message". Al Jazeera. 31 December 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2007. 
  50. Taliban Leader Promises More Afghan War – New York Times. Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  51. "Taliban's elusive leader urges more suicide raids". Reuters. 21 April 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2009. 
  52. Lake, Eli; Carter, Sara A. (20 November 2009). "EXCLUSIVE: Taliban chief hides in Pakistan". The Washington Times. Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  53. "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.
  54. Agence France-Presse, "Pakistan 'treated Taliban leader'", The Japan Times, 20 January 2011, p. 1.
  55. "Taliban leader Mullah Omar killed". (23 May 2011). Retrieved on 31 March 2013.
  56. "Afghan Taliban say leader Mullah Omar 'safe and sound'". Reuters. 23 May 2011. 
  57. Shalizi, Hamid, Reuters, "Taliban say Mullah Omar death report false, phone hacked", Yahoo! News, 20 July 2011.
  58. "Taliban leader Mullah Omar 'sent letter to Barack Obama'". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  59. "Amid peace bid, U.S. received purported letter from Taliban". Reuters. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  60. "BBC News - Bowe Bergdahl: Chuck Hagel praises release special forces". 2014-06-01. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 


Further reading

External links


Declassified documents

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

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