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Ahmed Shah Massoud

Ahmed Shah Massoud (c. 1953 - September 9, 2001) (variant transliterations include Ahmad, Masood, etc.) was an Afghani military leader who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, earning him the nickname the Lion of Panjshir. In the early 1990s he became Defence Minister under President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Following the collapse of Rabbani's government and the rise of the Taliban, Massoud became the military leader of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of various Afghani opposition groups in a prolonged civil war. As the Taliban established control over most of Afghanistan, Massoud's forces were increasingly forced into the mountainous areas of the north, where they controlled some 10% of Afghanistan's territory and perhaps 30% of its population.

Massoud was the victim of a suicide attack which occurred at Khvajeh Ba Odin on September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack in the United States, a timing considered significant by some commentators. The attackers were two Arabs who claimed to be Belgians originally from Morocco. However their passports turned out to be stolen. According to some accounts they were posing as journalists, perhaps intending to attack several Northern Alliance council members simultaneously. They set off a bomb hidden in either a video camera or a belt worn by one of the attackers. It appears that Massoud died within 30 minutes, although his death was denied until September 13. The explosion also killed Mohammed Asim Suhail, a Northern Alliance official, while Mohammad Fahim Dashti and Massoud Khalili were injured. One of the attackers was killed by the explosion and the other was shot while trying to escape.

The French secret service revealed October 16, 2003 that the camera used by Massoud's assassins had been stolen in December 2000 Grenoble, France from a photo-journalist, Jean-Pierre Vincendet, who was then working on a story on that city's Christmas store window displays. By tracing the serial number that appeared in the camera, the FBI was able to determine Vincendet as the original owner. The French secret serve and the FBI then began working on tracing the route that the camera took between the time it was taken from Vincendet and the Massoud assassination.

Massoud is the subject of Ken Follett's Lay Down With Lions, a novel about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

See also: History of Afghanistan since 1992

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