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Mullah Omar has been wanted by the U.S. State Department'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. Those who were close to him say that he requested evidence from the United States regarding bin Laden and his alleged hand in the 9/11 attacks but did not receive any. He is believed to be directing the Taliban insurgency against the U.S.-led NATO forces and the Government of Afghanistan.
Despite his political rank and his high status on the Rewards for Justice most wanted list, 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. 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). Mullah Omar has been described as shy and non-talkative with foreigners.
During his tenure as Emir of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left the city of Kandahar and rarely met with outsiders, instead relying on Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil for the majority of diplomatic necessities. Many, 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. Additionally, many current and former U.S. senior military officials such as Robert Gates, Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus and others claim that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are also involved in helping the Taliban.
Omar is thought to have been born around 1959 or 1962 in the village of Nodeh in the Deh Rahwod District of Urozgan Province of Afghanistan to a landless peasant family. He is an ethnic Pashtun from the Hotak tribe, which is part of the larger Ghilzai branch. 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.
Omar fought as a guerrilla 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. 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."
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. Other sources place this event in 1986 or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad.
After he was disabled, Omar may have studied and taught in a madrasah, or Islamic seminary, in the Pakistani border city of Quetta. He was reportedly a mullah at a village madrasah near the Afghan city of Kandahar.
Unlike many Afghan mujahideen, Omar speaks Arabic. He was devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, and took a job teaching in a madrassa in Quetta. He later moved to Binoori Mosque in Karachi, where he led prayers, and later met with Osama bin Laden for the first time.
Forming the Taliban
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. 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." 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.
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"), 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".
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, 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.
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... We will not accept a government of wrong-doers. We prefer death than to be a part of an evil government..."