One of the only known photographs of Omar (date unknown)
Mullah Mohammed Omar (ملا محمد عمر; born 1959) is the reclusive leader of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Afghanistan's former de facto Head of State who has been in hiding since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. He is wanted by US authorites for harboring international terrorist Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida organization.
Omar is described as very tall (some say 1.98m (6'6")) and considered to be a fierce commander by many. He was wounded four times as a fighter with the Harakat-i Inqilab-i Islami faction of the anti-Soviet mujahideen, leaving him with only one eye. Omar gives few interviews, rarely meets with non-Muslims, and there are only a few known pictures of him. Diplomats describe him as shy and untalkative with foreigners. Omar says he has one son.
On July 6, 2004, intelligence agents captured Taliban members Mullah Sakhi Dad Mujahid and Nisar Hamed in a raid on a compound in Shah Wali Kot. Mujahid was carrying a cell phone containing phone numbers of top level Taliban leaders, including Mohammed Omar. Kandahar intelligence chief Abdullah Laghmanai said his people contacted Omar via Mujahid's phone, but when he realized it was not Mujahid, he hung up. Further attempts at that number were not answered.
He was born the son of a peasant farmer, and grew up in mud huts around the village of Singesar (some reports say Nodeh), near Kandahar. He lost his father when he was young and the responsibility of fending for his family fell on him. He was relatively unknown in Afghanistan until 1994. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal, Mullah Omar created the Taliban to overcome what he saw as Afghanistan's descent into warlordism and lawlessness. His recruits came from the Koranic schools within Afghanistan and in the Afghan refugee camps across the border in Pakistan. Reportedly, Omar started the Taliban after a dream in which Allah came to him in the shape of a man, asking him to lead the faithful.
Omar is known for a pure devotion to Islam. He was a mullah with a village madrassah near Kandahar. In April 1996, Omar accepted the title of Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين, "commander of the faithful"). Later, he removed a cloak said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed from its Kandahar shrine; something that had not been done in 60 years. This move was seen as conferring dynastic legitimacy on himself.
Even after the Taliban conquered Kabul, Omar remained in Kandahar, an unusual move for the commander of Afghan forces with a desire to rule the entire country.
Omar's dedication to Islam led him to order the destruction of two large statues of Buddha which stood at the cliffs of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which were archaeological and historical treasures, but which he characterized as idols. Osama bin Ladin commended Omar for ordering this action.
Many ordinary ethnic Pashtun followers see him as a repository of piety, and say: "It is our duty to follow Omar, he is our father, the first man to take the cloak of the prophet."
Some quotes by Mullah Omar:
- "I am ready to sacrifice everything in completing the unfinished agenda of our noble jihad...until there is no bloodshed in Afghanistan and Islam becomes a way of life for our people."
- "God says he will never be satisfied with the infidels. In terms of worldly affairs, America is very strong. Even if it were twice as strong or twice that, it could not be strong enough to defeat us. We are confident that no one can harm us if God is with us."
- 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 will fall to the ground.
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1550419.stm - BBC Biography on Mullah Omar
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/world/2001/war_on_terror/investigation_on_terror/people_3.stm - Short biographical information from Omar