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Mohammed Omar

One of the only known photographs of Omar

Mullah Mohammed Omar (born 1959) is the reclusive leader of the Taliban of Afghanistan and Afghanistan's former defacto 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.

He was born the son of a peasant farmer, and grew up in mud huts around the village of Singesar, near Kandahar. 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 ("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:

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