Mullah Mohammed Omar was the founder and former emir (leader) of the Taliban. In late July 2015, Afghan government sources reported that Omar died as early as April 2013 in Karachi, Pakistan. Taliban spokesmen initially denied the allegation,Ayaz Gul, Voice of America, July 29, 2015, http://www.voanews.com/content/taliban-denies-reported-death-of-leader-mullah-omar/2883023.html" but later confirmed it. A meeting of the Taliban leadership—the Quetta Shura—unanimously elevated Omar’s deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, to replace him.“Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leader-afghanistan-mansour.
It is suspected that Omar had been sheltered with the connivance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s military intelligence service. Pakistan denies such allegations and always posited that Omar resided in Afghanistan.Ben Farmer, “Mullah Mohammad Omar: Profile,” Telegraph (London), May 23, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8531476/Mullah-Mohammad-Omar-profile-of-the-one-eyed-Taliban-leader.html.
Omar was born near Kandahar, Afghanistan, circa 1960.Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 23. After a childhood spent in isolated Pashtun villages, Omar moved to the Mewand district of Kandahar province, where he became a local mullah (religious leader) and opened a madrassa (Islamic school).Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 24. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979,Ivan Watson, “Mullah Omar is still the leader of the Taliban, new biography claims,” CNN, April 6, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/06/asia/taliban-mullah-omar-biography/. Omar left his studies to join the mujahideen, an Islamic insurgent force battling the Soviet occupation. After participating in the anti-Soviet jihad, Omar linked up with Hizb-e-Islami, an Islamic resistance movement to the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime between 1989 and 1992.Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 24. Omar was wounded on four occasions, including the loss of vision in his right eye.Ivan Watson, “Mullah Omar is still the leader of the Taliban, new biography claims,” CNN, April 6, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/06/asia/taliban-mullah-omar-biography/. He emerged from the anti-Soviet jihad as the most formidable rebel leader in Afghanistan.
In 1994, Omar appointed himself Emir-ul Momineen (Leader of the Faithful),Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 250. laying claim to the mantle of commanding the umma (community of all Muslims).Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 42. Soon after, Omar extended an invitation to Osama bin Laden to set up terrorist training camps on Afghan soil. Bin Laden promptly accepted the invitation, and the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda was born.Steve Coll, “Looking for Mullah Omar,” New Yorker, January 23, 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/23/looking-for-mullah-omar.
After al-Qaeda launched the 9/11 attacks against the United States, the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders.Alez Spillius, “We won’t hand over bin Laden, say defiant Taliban,” Telegraph (London), September 22, 2001, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1341340/We-wont-hand-over-bin-Laden-say-defiant-Taliban.html; Steve Coll, “Looking for Mullah Omar,” New Yorker, January 23, 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/23/looking-for-mullah-omar; John F. Burns, “A Nation Challenged: The Taliban; Afghans Coaxing bin laden, But U.S. Rejects Clerics’ Bid,” New York Times, September 21, 2001, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/21/world/nation-challenged-taliban-afghans-coaxing-bin-laden-but-us-rejects-clerics-bid.html; Norman Kempster and Tyler Marshall, “Taliban Rejects Bush Ultimatum,” Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2001, http://articles.latimes.com/2001/sep/22/news/mn-48537. Omar managed to survive a $10 million bounty on his headIvan Watson, “Mullah Omar is still the leader of the Taliban, new biography claims,” CNN, April 6, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/06/asia/taliban-mullah-omar-biography/. owing to his extreme sense of secrecy. When he was the de facto leader of Afghanistan, Omar was rarely seen outside his inner circle and infrequently visited the capital, Kabul.Ben Farmer, “Mullah Mohammad Omar: Profile,” Telegraph, May 23, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8531476/Mullah-Mohammad-Omar-profile-of-the-one-eyed-Taliban-leader.html. Omar never met with or had been photographed by Western diplomats or journalists.Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, (Yale University Press: 2010), 23.
In July 2015, the Taliban named Mansour, as the group’s new emir.“Taliban confirms death of Mullah Omar, names new leader,” France 24, July 30, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20150730-taliban-confrms-death-omar-names-new-leader-afghanistan-mansour. In September 2015, Omar’s eldest son, Mohammad Yaqoob, issued a statement declaring his father had died of natural causes in Afghanistan. He called for unity in the Taliban amid disagreements over its leadership.Jibran Ahmad, “Taliban’s Mullah Omar died of natural causes in Afghanistan, son says,” Reuters, September 14, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-taliban/talibans-mullah-omar-died-of-natural-causes-in-afghanistan-son-says-idUSKCN0RE0RC20150914. Members of Yaqoob’s family reportedly sought to elevate him to his father’s leadership role but acquiesced to Mansour’s appointment in exchange for benefits. In April 2016, Yaqoob was appointed head of the Taliban’s military commission for 15 provinces in Afghanistan and appointed to the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura (leadership council).Jibran Ahmad, “Son of Afghan Taliban founder given top council post,” Reuters, April 4, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-mansour/son-of-afghan-taliban-founder-given-top-council-post-idUSKCN0X121E. In May 2020, Yaqoob, was promoted to the role of the Taliban’s military chief.Ben Farmer, “Taliban founder’s son appointed military chief of insurgents,” Telegraph (London), May 7, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/07/taliban-founders-son-appointed-military-chief-insurgents/.
United StatesJuly 2, 2002
The White House labeled Mohammed Omar a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on July 2, 2002.“Executive Order 13268 of July 2, 2002,” U.S. Government Publishing Office, July 3, 2002, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2002-07-03/pdf/02-16951.pdf.
United NationsJanuary 31, 2001
The U.N. Security Council adds “Mohammed Omar” to its 1988 Sanctions List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.“Security Council 1988 Committee Amends 105 Entries on Its Sanctions List,” United Nations, November 29, 2011, http://www.un.org/press/en/2011/sc10465.doc.htm.
European UnionMarch 14, 2014
The Council of the European Union annexes the U.N.’s designation, adding “Mohammed Omar Ghulam Nabi” to its Sanctions List on March 14, 2014.“Council Implementing Decision 2014/142/CFSP,” Eur-Lex, March 14, 2014, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32014D0142.