Mohammed Omar

Last updated

Mohammed Omar
محمد عمر
Mullah Omar.jpg
Omar in 1980s
Head of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan [1] [2] [3]
In office
27 September 1996 13 November 2001
Prime Minister Mohammad Rabbani
Abdul Kabir (acting)
Preceded by Burhanuddin Rabbani (as President)
Succeeded by Burhanuddin Rabbani (as President)
Supreme Leader of the Taliban
In office
1994 23 April 2013
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded by Akhtar Mansour
Personal details
Chah-i-Himmat village, Khakrez District, Kandahar Province, [4] Afghanistan
Died23 April 2013(2013-04-23) (aged 52–53)
Zabul, Afghanistan [5]
Cause of death Tuberculosis [6] [7] [8]
Resting placeZabul, Afghanistan (unmarked grave) [9]
Height6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Spouse(s)3 wives
Children5 or 6 including Mohammad Yaqoob
Alma mater Darul Uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Military service
Allegiance Flag of Jihad.svg Mujahideen (1983–1991)
Logo of Hezb-e Islami Khalis.svg Hezb-e Islami Khalis (1983–1991)
Flag of Taliban.svg Taliban (1994–2013)
Years of service1983–1991
Battles/wars Soviet–Afghan War
  Battle of Arghandab [10]
Afghan Civil War
  Battle of Jalalabad [11]
*Omar's term has been disputed by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Mullah Mohammed Omar (Pashto : ملا محمد عمر, Mullā Muḥammad 'Umar; 1960 [12] [13] [14]  – 23 April 2013) [6] [7] [15] was an Afghan mujahideen commander who led the Taliban, [16] and founded the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996. [1] [2] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


Born into a poor family, Omar graduated from Darul Uloom Haqqania in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. During the 1980s, he joined the Afghan mujahideen in their war against the Soviet Union and the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. [22] He founded the Taliban movement in 1994, and by 1995 had captured much of southern and western Afghanistan; by September 1996, the Taliban also took the capital Kabul. [22] During his tenure as the Emir of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left the city of Kandahar and lived a reclusive life. [23] [22] He ordered the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan in 2001. [24]

He became wanted by the United States government after being accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda militants after the September 11 attacks against the US. [25] He secretly fled his residence in Kandahar after the US invasion of Afghanistan and then directed the Taliban insurgency against NATO-led forces and the new government of Afghanistan. According to sources, Omar then lived in Karachi, Pakistan until his death, but this claim was contradicted by journalist Bette Dam, who wrote that Omar continued living in Afghanistan near a US military base in Zabul. [26] Omar died on 23 April 2013 of tuberculosis. [8] His death was kept secret by the Taliban for two years until it was revealed in July 2015 by Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security. [27]

Early life

According to most sources, Omar was born sometime between 1950 and 1962 [13] in a village in Kandahar Province, Kingdom of Afghanistan (in present-day Kandahar Province or Uruzgan Province). [28] [29] Some suggest his birth year as 1950 [30] [31] or 1953, [32] or as late as around 1966. [32] [33] According to a "surprise biography" published by the Taliban in April 2015, he was born in 1960. [34]

His exact place of birth is also uncertain; one possibility is a village called Nodeh near the city of Kandahar. [35] [36] [37] Matinuddin writes that he was born in 1961 in Nodeh village, Panjwai District, Kandahar Province. [38] Others say Omar was born in a village of the same name in Uruzgan Province. [29] In Omar's entry in the UNSC's Taliban Sanctions List, "Nodeh village, Deh Rahwod District, Uruzgan Province" is given as a possible birthplace. [32] Other reports say Omar was born in 1960 in Noori village near Kandahar. [39] 'Noori village, Maiwand District, Kandahar Province' is a second location suggested in Omar's entry in the Sanctions List. [32] According to a biography of Omar published online by the Taliban in April 2015, he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in Khakrez District, Kandahar Province. [40] It has also been mentioned that Sangasar was his home village. [41] 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 (though some identify the district as Omar's birthplace). [28] [42] He attended Darul Uloom Haqqania from where several senior Taliban leaders including his successor Akhtar Mansour [43] also graduated. [44]

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. [35] 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." [22] His father Mawlawi Ghulam Nabi [32] Akhund died when Omar was young. [28] According to Omar's own words he was 3 years old when his father died, and thereafter he was raised by his uncles. [45] 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. [28] It is reported that they lived in the village of Dehwanawark, close to the town of Deh Rahwod. [46]

Personal life

Despite his political rank and his high status on the Rewards for Justice most wanted list, [25] not much was publicly known about him. Before his death, only one known photo existed of him. After his death, the Taliban released a newer and clearer photo showing Omar in his youth in 1978. [47] Apart from the fact that he had a missing eye, accounts of his physical appearance state that Omar was thin, strongly built and very tall, at around 2 m (6 ft 6 in). [23] [48] [49]

Omar was described as shy and non-talkative, [50] like by the famed Afghan poet Abdul Bari Jahani, who visited him with academics and activists at the beginning of his rule, all applauding the system and security he brought, and remembers him as a "tall and handsome" man who "listened in quiet." [51]

He had "at least" three wives and "at least" five or six children, [52] including Mohammad Yaqoob, his eldest son, a high-ranking Taliban fighter.

Mujahideen era

After the 1978 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan, Omar went to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1979 to study at the Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia, the city's premier seminary for orthodox Sunni Muslims. [53] After the Soviet invasion, the family moved to Tarinkot in Urozgan province. Young Mohammed was left to fend for his family. Unemployed, Omar moved to Singesar village in Kandahar province and became the mullah, where he established a madrassa in a mud hut. He returned to Afghanistan in 1982 to fight with Hezbi Islami, one of seven such parties training across the Afghan province. [54]

Omar fought as a rebel soldier with the anti-Soviet Mujahideen under the command of Nek Mohammed of the Hizb-e-Islami Khalis; he reportedly also fought for another Mujahideen faction, the Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami - but he did not fight against the communist regime of Najibullah between 1989 and 1992. [35] It was reported that he was "a crack marksman who had destroyed many Soviet tanks during the Afghan War". [48]

Omar was wounded four times. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef claims to have been present when exploding shrapnel destroyed one of Omar's eyes during a battle in Sangsar, Panjwaye District shortly before the 1987 Battle of Arghandab. [10] Other sources place this event in 1986 [55] or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad. [11]

Unlike many Afghan mujaheddin, Omar spoke Arabic. [56] He was devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam [57] and took a job teaching in a madrassa in Quetta, Pakistan. He later moved to a mosque in Karachi where he led prayers and later met with Osama bin Laden for the first time. [23]

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. Omar went back to the madrassa at Singesar, although when he returned to religious teaching is unclear. [58] 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." [58] Omar started his movement with less than 50 armed madrassah students who were simply known as the Taliban (Pashtun for 'students'). His recruits came from madrassas located in Afghanistan and the Afghan refugee camps which were located across the border in Pakistan. They fought against the rampant corruption which had emerged during the civil war period and were initially welcomed by Afghans who were weary of warlord rule. Apparently, Omar became sickened by the abusive raping of children by warlords and turned against their authority in the mountainous country of Afghanistan from 1994 onwards. [59]

Two influential anti-Soviet political leaders who were connected with Peshawar during this era were Yunus Khalis and Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi; both exerted a considerable influence over the Taliban, particularly in the southern parts of the country, including Kandahar. Many of those who later formed the core of the Taliban, including Omar, fought under the command of factions that were loyal to Nabi Mohammadi. These factions had helped spread madaris , attended by many of the Kandahar Taliban, throughout the southern regions of Afghanistan. [60]

The practice of bacha bazi by warlords was one of the key factors in Omar mobilizing the Taliban. [61] Reportedly, in early 1994, Omar led 30 men armed with 16 rifles to free two young girls who had been kidnapped and raped by a warlord, hanging him from a tank gun barrel. [62] 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 freed the boy; appeals soon flooded in for Omar to intercede in other disputes.[ citation needed ] His movement gained momentum through the year and he quickly gathered recruits from Islamic schools totaling 12,000 by the year's end with some Pakistani volunteers. By November 1994, Omar's movement managed to capture the whole of the Kandahar Province and then captured the Herat Province in September 1995. [63] Although some accounts estimated that by the spring of 1995 he had already taken 12 of the 31 provinces in Afghanistan. [64]

Leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

A still from a 1996 video taken secretly by BBC Newsnight. It purports to show Omar (left) presenting the cloak of Muhammad to his troops in Kandahar, before their victorious assault on Kabul. Mullah Omar reveals the Prophet's cloak.jpg
A still from a 1996 video taken secretly by BBC Newsnight. It purports to show Omar (left) presenting the cloak of Muhammad to his troops in Kandahar, before their victorious assault on Kabul.
Omar ordered the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan (pictured in 1976) in March 2001, receiving international condemnation. Buddha of Bamiyan.jpg
Omar ordered the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan (pictured in 1976) in March 2001, receiving international condemnation.

On 4 April 1996, supporters of Omar bestowed the title Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين, "Commander of the Faithful") on him, [65] after he donned a cloak which was alleged to be that of Muhammad, locked in a series of chests and held inside the Shrine of the Cloak (Kirka Sharif) 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 the "Amir al-Mu'minin". [66]

In September 1996, Kabul fell to Omar and his followers. The civil war continued in the northeast corner of the country, near Tajikistan. In October 1997 the nation was named the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Described as a "reclusive, pious and frugal" leader, [23] Omar rarely left his residence in the city of Kandahar, and he only visited Kabul twice between 1996 and 2001 during his tenure as ruler of Afghanistan. In November 2001, during a radio interview with the BBC, 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." [67]

According to Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, Omar stated in the late 1990s, "We have told Osama [Bin Laden] not to use Afghan soil to carry out political activities as it creates unnecessary confusion about Taliban objectives." [68]

In 1998, despite receiving a personal invitation from Saudi Arabia's ruler, King Fahd, Omar refused to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and would not do one in his lifetime. [69]

Omar was also "Head of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan". [70]

Bamiyan Buddhas

In July 1999, Mohammed Omar issued a decree in favor of the preservation of the Bamiyan Buddha statues. Because Afghanistan's Buddhist population no longer exists, so the statues are no longer worshiped, he added: "The government considers the Bamiyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors. The Taliban states that Bamiyan shall not be destroyed but protected." [71]

In early 2000, local Taliban authorities asked for UN assistance to rebuild drainage ditches around tops of the alcoves where the Buddhas were set. [72]

In March 2001, the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban under an edict issued from Omar, stating: "all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed." [73] This prompted an international outcry. [74] Information and Culture Minister Qadratullah Jamal told Associated Press of a decision by 400 religious clerics from across Afghanistan declaring the Buddhist statues against the tenets of Islam. "They came out with a consensus that the statues were against Islam," said Jamal. A statement issued by the ministry of religious affairs of the Taliban regime justified the destruction as being in accordance with Islamic law. [75] The then Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef held that the destruction of the Buddhas was finally ordered by Abdul Wali, the Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. [76]

The Taliban supreme leader Omar explained why he ordered the statues to be destroyed in an interview:

I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings – the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha's destruction. [77]

Opium production

Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994-2007 (hectares). Before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was almost entirely eradicated (99%) by the Taliban. Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation 1994-2007b.PNG
Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994–2007 (hectares). Before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was almost entirely eradicated (99%) by the Taliban.

In July 2000, Taliban leader Mohammed Omar, in an effort to eradicate heroin production in Afghanistan, declared that growing poppies was un-Islamic, resulting in one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns. [78] [79] The Taliban enforced a ban on poppy farming via threats, forced eradication, and public punishment of transgressors. The result was a 99% reduction in the area of opium poppy farming in Taliban-controlled areas, roughly three-quarters of the world's supply of heroin at the time. [78] [79] The ban was effective only briefly due to the deposition of the Taliban in 2002.

11 September attacks

Following the September 11 attacks orchestrated by al-Qaeda, the United States under the Bush administration issued an ultimatum to Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden and other high ranking al-Qaeda officials and shut down all al-Qaeda training camps within the country. In an interview with Voice of America, Omar was asked if he would give up Osama bin Laden. Omar replied, "No. We cannot do that. If we did, it means we are not Muslims, that Islam is finished. If we were afraid of attack, we could have surrendered him the last time we were threatened." [80] Omar explained his position to high-ranking Taliban officials:

Islam says that when a Muslim asks for shelter, give the shelter and never hand him over to enemy. And our Afghan tradition says that, even if your enemy asks for shelter, forgive him and give him shelter. Osama has helped the jihad in Afghanistan, he was with us in bad days and I am not going to give him to anyone. [80]

Omar was adamant that bin Laden was innocent of planning the 9/11 attacks despite the accusations directed against him. Despite this, high ranking Taliban officials attempted to persuade Omar and made offers to the United States through its contacts with Pakistan. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef said at a news conference in Islamabad that "our position in this regard is that if the Americans have evidence, they should produce it." If they could prove their allegations, he said, "we are ready for a trial of Osama bin Laden." [81] The Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil also attempted to negotiate, offering the Americans the proposal of setting up a three-nation court under the supervision of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference as it was a "neutral organization" or having bin Laden tried by an Islamic council in Afghanistan. [82] Muttawakil said "the US showed no interest in it." [82] The Taliban Prime Minister Abdul Kabir stated that if evidence was provided, "we would be ready to hand him over to a third country". [83]

The Supreme Council of the Islamic Clergy, a council of around 1,000 clerics, convened in Kabul in late September 2001 and issued a decree against the United States and its threats of militarily invading Afghanistan. They also recommended that Osama bin Laden be asked to leave Afghanistan of his own free will to "avoid the current tumult" and expressed sympathy and a conciliatory tone towards those who died in the 11 September attacks: "The ulema voice their sadness over American deaths and hope America does not attack Afghanistan." [81] The Taliban Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said that Omar had agreed to follow guidance offered by the clerics and would try to encourage bin Laden to leave Afghanistan without forcibly handing him over to the United States for prosecution, even if bin Laden refused to leave the country. [81]

However, according to an interview with Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, Omar told him:

I don't want to go down in history as someone who betrayed his guest. I am willing to give my life, my regime. Since we have given him refuge I cannot throw him out now. [80]

In hiding

On the night of 7–8 October 2001, shortly after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began, Omar's house in Kandahar was bombed by cruise missiles. Omar escaped injury, but his 10-year-old son and his uncle were killed along with several Taliban bodyguards. [84]

Another account of this attack says that his three-car convoy was attacked by a MQ-1 Predator drone launched missile: the first missile launched by a drone in combat. [85]

According to fellow Taliban fighters, Omar had secretly fled his residence in Kandahar for security purposes shortly after it was bombed and was last seen riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by his brother-in-law and right-hand man, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Senior and former Taliban officials have said that there had not been any confirmed sightings of their Amir-ul-Momineen (commander of the faithful) in Afghanistan since then. Omar is believed to have hidden for over a year in the mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan before fleeing to neighboring Pakistan in late 2002. According to sources, he was living for a time somewhere in Karachi, Pakistan, where he worked as a potato trader. [53] The United States offered a reward of US$10 million for information leading to his capture. [25]

However, the above claims have been contradicted by Dutch Journalist, Bette Dam and Borhan Osman who is a senior analyst at International Crisis Group (ICG). Both Bette Dam and Borhan Osman claim that Omar never lived in Pakistan. Rather he spent all of his life living in Afghanistan just few miles away from US military base. [86] Villagers from Zabul also assert that they knew about the presence of high-ranking Taliban official in Zabul. They used to provide Omar with gifts of clothes and food. [5]

In November 2001, he was heard over a short-wave radio ordering all Taliban troops to abandon Kabul and take to the mountains, noting, "defending the cities with front lines that can be targeted from the air will cause us terrible loss". [87] [88] In a November 2001 BBC Pashto interview, Omar said, "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." [67] Claiming that the Americans had circulated "propaganda" that 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. [89]

During the Battle for Kandahar in late November 2001, U.S. Special Operations teams known as Texas 12 and Texas 17 aligned with Hamid Karzai and with Pashtun General Gul Agha Sherzai, respectively, surrounded Kandahar backed by U.S. Marines outside LashkarGah. On 28 November 2001, while under attack by a Russian-made BM21 multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS), Texas 17 observed Omar's black American-made Chevrolet Suburban passing Kandahar Airport and travelling down highway four surrounded by a dozen sedans and six semi-trucks. Four US Navy F-18's from USS Kitty Hawk destroyed all the vehicles including the Suburban. The same day, 28 November 2001, the Taliban reported that Omar had supposedly survived an American air strike. [90] [91] [92] [93] [94] [95]

Omar continued to have the allegiance of prominent pro-Taliban military leaders in the region, including Jalaluddin Haqqani. The former foe, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction, also reportedly allied with Omar and the Taliban. In April 2004, Omar was interviewed via phone by Pakistani journalist Mohammed Shehzad. [96] 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". [96]

In the years following the allied invasion, numerous statements were released that were 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". [97] Then in December 2006, Omar reportedly issued a statement expressing confidence that foreign forces will be driven out of Afghanistan. [98]

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." [99] In April 2007, Omar issued another statement through an intermediary encouraging more suicide attacks. [100]

In November 2009, The Washington Times claimed that Omar, assisted by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had moved back to Karachi in October. [101] In January 2010, Brigadier Amir Sultan Tarar, a retired officer with ISI who had previously trained Omar, said that he was ready to break with his al-Qaida allies to make peace in Afghanistan: "The moment he gets control, the first target will be the al-Qaida people." [102]

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 ISI rushed Omar to a hospital near Karachi where he was operated on, treated, and then released several days later. Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., stated that the report "had no basis whatsoever". [103]

On 23 May 2011, TOLO News in Afghanistan quoted unnamed sources as saying that Omar had been killed by ISI two days earlier. These reports remained unconfirmed.[ citation needed ] 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." [104] On 20 July 2011, phone text messages from accounts used by Taliban spokesmen Zabihullah Mujahid and Qari Mohammed Yousuf announced Omar's death. Mujahid and Yousuf, however, quickly denied sending the messages and claimed that their mobile phones, websites, and e-mail accounts had been hacked, and they swore revenge on the telephone network providers. [105]

In 2012, it was revealed that an individual claiming to be Omar sent a letter to President Barack Obama in 2011, expressing a slight interest in peace talks. [106] [107]

On 31 May 2014, in return for the release of American prisoner of war Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, five senior Afghan detainees were released from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. A person claiming to be Omar reportedly hailed their release. [108]

On 23 September 2014, Omar's aide, Abdul Rahman Nika, was killed by Afghan special forces. According to Afghan intelligence service spokesman Abdul Nasheed Sediqi, Nika was involved in most of the Taliban's attacks in western Afghanistan, including the kidnapping of three Indian engineers who were later rescued. [109]

In 2019 a book was released that asserted Omar lived in hiding from 2001 to 2013 about 3 miles from a US base in Afghanistan and later close to another US base, but never in Pakistan. The information came from a bodyguard who also said Omar was buried in an unmarked grave when he died of natural causes. [110]

Post-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan

In December 2014, acting Afghan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil stated he was not sure "whether Omar is alive or dead". This came amid reports after the Afghan intelligence agency revealed fracturing within the Taliban movement, speculating that a leadership struggle had ensued and therefore that Omar had died. [111] Later reports from Afghan intelligence in December revealed that Omar had been hiding in the Pakistani city of Karachi. An anonymous European intelligence official who confirmed this has stated that "there's a consensus among all three branches of the Afghan security forces that Omar is alive. Not only do they think he's alive, they say they have a good understanding of where exactly he is in Karachi." [112]

Emergence of ISIS

In April 2015, a man claiming to be Mullah Omar issued a fatwa declaring pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State group as forbidden in Islamic law. The man described ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a "fake caliph", and said "Baghdadi just wanted to dominate what has so far been achieved by the real jihadists of Islam after three decades of jihad. A pledge of allegiance to him is 'haram'." However, Omar was later found to have died two years earlier, suggesting that these remarks came from his successor Akhtar Mansour. [113]

Last days

In 2001, Omar handed over the control of Taliban operations to his defence minister, Mullah Obaidullah, and went to live in his native home in Zabul province. He spent several years living in Qalat at a private home owned by his driver. The house was searched by the US military once, but they did not enter the concealed room where Omar was hiding. After the US established a military base, Forward Operating Base Lagman, near the house in 2004, Omar relocated to a more remote area in Shinkay District in Zabul. This time he lived in a house which was only three kilometres away from United States Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wolverine. He lived in that house until his death in 2013. Jabbar Omari said that Omar had grown ill in 2013 and he refused to visit any doctor. As a result, he died of illness in 2013 in Zabul. [114] [86] [115] [5] [116]

Dutch journalist Bette Dam stated in her book that Omar spent his last days just 3 miles away from US Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wolverine in Zabul Province. The base houses more than 1,000 United States troops. She said that Omar never hid in Pakistan, rather Omar spent all his life in Afghanistan. "Though Mullah Omar did not venture outside for fear of being caught, according to [his bodyguard] Jabbar Omari, in the four years they hid in that home, they felt relatively safe," Bette Dam added. [26] Ms. Bette Dam said that her research relied on interviews with current and former members of the Afghan government, the Afghan intelligence agency NDS, the Taliban, and Jabbar Omari (Omar's body guard). She said that her findings, confirmed by Afghan officials as well as the Talibans, depicted the US intelligence failure and cast even further doubt on US claims in the Afghan war. [117]

Villagers in the area (where Omar spent his last days) state that they knew about the presence of high ranking Taliban officials. Villagers provided gifts of clothes and food to Omar. [5] [118]

Borhan Osman, a senior analyst at International Crisis Group (ICG), also stated that his research suggests that Omar spent the rest of his life in Zabul, Afghanistan. He never left Afghanistan. [86]

In 2019, the Taliban released a picture of the supposed hideout where Omar spent the last years of his life. [119] The pictures show a modest mud house with a small garden in which Omar "used to sit in the sun", according to a Taliban spokesman. [120]


On 29 July 2015, the Afghan government publicly announced that Mohammed Omar had died in 2013. Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune reported that a former Taliban minister and current leadership council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Omar died from tuberculosis. [6] [7] [8] It was confirmed by a senior Taliban member that Omar's death was kept a secret for two years. [121] It is alleged that Omar was "buried somewhere near the border on the Afghan side". [15] [122] [123] Afghan officials report that Omar was buried in Zabul, a province in southern Afghanistan. [124] Atta Mohammed Haqyar, head of Zabul's provincial council, believed that Omar was buried in a cemetery in Sarkhogan area of Shinkay districts in Zabul. Several senior Taliban commanders have also been buried in Sarkhogan area. He further stated that the area had special significance for the Hotak tribe which Omar was from. [125]

The presence of Omar in Zabul was backed by villagers from that area. Villagers from Zabul also reported that they knew about the presence of some high ranking Taliban officials in the area. Villagers had provided gifts of clothes and food to Omar. [5]

Fidai Mahaz, a Taliban splinter group, claimed that Omar did not die of natural causes, rather he was killed in his hideout in Zabul, Afghanistan. [126] The place of Omar's death is disputed; according to Afghan government sources, he died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. [6] A former Taliban minister stated that Karachi, Sindh was "Omar's natural destination because he had lived there for quite some time and was as familiar with the city as any other resident". [53] However, this claim has been dismissed by other Taliban members, stating that his death occurred in Afghanistan after his health condition had deteriorated due to "sickness" and that "not for a single day did he go to Pakistan". [15] According to an official statement by Pakistani defence minister Khawaja Asif, "Mullah Omar neither died nor was buried in Pakistan and his sons' statements are on record to support this. Whether he died now or two years ago is another controversy which we do not wish to be a part of. He was neither in Karachi nor in Quetta." [127] Initially, some Taliban members denied that he had died. Other sources considered the report to be speculative, designed to destabilise peace negotiations in Pakistan between the Afghan government and the Taliban. [128] Abdul Hassib Seddiqi, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), said: "We confirm officially that he is dead." [129]

The following day, the Taliban confirmed the death of Omar. Sources close to the Taliban leadership said his deputy, Akhtar Mansoor, would replace him, although with the lesser title of Supreme Leader. Omar's eldest son, Mohammed Yaqoob, was opposed to Mansour's ascension as leader. [130]

The Taliban splinter group Fidai Mahaz claimed Omar did not die of natural causes but was instead assassinated in a coup led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and Mullah Gul Agha. The Taliban commander, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, brother of former senior commander Mullah Dadullah, confirmed that Omar had been assassinated. [131] The leader of Fidai Mahaz, Mullah Najibullah, revealed that due to Omar's kidney disease, he needed medicine. According to Najibullah, Mansour poisoned the medicine, damaging Omar's liver and causing him to grow weaker. When Omar summoned Mansour and other members of Omar's inner circle to hear his will, they discovered that Mansour was not to assume leadership of the Taliban. It was due to Mansour allegedly orchestrating "dishonourable deals". When Mansour pressed Omar to name him as his successor, Omar refused. Mansour then shot and killed Omar. Najibullah claimed Omar died at a southern Afghanistan hide-out in Zabul Province in the afternoon on 23 April 2013. [132] [126] Mohammad Yaqoob, Omar's elder son, denied that his father had been killed, insisting that he died of natural causes. [133]


Omar's death brought about condolences worldwide from Ajnad al-Kavkaz, [134] Ansar al Furqan, [135] Islamic Front's Ahrar al-Sham, [136] [137] [138] Jaish Muhammad, [139] Ansar al-Din Front, [140] Turkistan Islamic Party, [141] [142] [143] Jamaat Ansar al Sunnah, [144] Jaish al Ummah, [145] Jamaat ul Ahrar, [146] Caucasus Emirate, [147] [148] Jaish al-Islam, [149] Al-Nusra Front, AQAP, and AQIM, [150] and Al-Shabaab. [151]

The Afghan government was unsympathetic to mourning his death; security forces were ordered to prevent citizens from publicly grieving Omar. An NDS spokesman said that he was "the biggest cause of war and backwardness in the modern history of Afghanistan.", adding that any ceremony for Omar would be an "insult" to victims of the Taliban. Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans nationwide took part in rallies on August 4, denouncing Omar. [152]

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Further reading


Declassified documents

Political offices
Preceded by
Burhanuddin Rabbani
as President of Afghanistan
Emir of Afghanistan

Succeeded by
Burhanuddin Rabbani
as President of Afghanistan