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Mohammad Omar

Omar, Mohammad, b. late 1950s, Afghan religious and political leader popularly known as Mullah Omar. From a rural Pashtun family, he became a Muslim cleric. In the 1980s he joined the mujahidin fighting the Soviet occupation and lost his right eye in battle. Objecting to postwar lawlessness and lax Muslim practice, he helped found (1994) the Taliban, and led madrasa students in the takeover of Kandahar and other Afghan cities. In 1996, when the Taliban had won control of much of Afghanistan, Omar was proclaimed amir al-mu'minin (commander of the faithful). Under his leadership, strict Islamic and traditional law was instituted. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, he refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, who had his headquarters in Afghanistan and is thought to have funded the Taliban. After U.S.-supported forces routed the Taliban, Omar went into hiding in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and his whereabouts, in Pakistan or Afghanistan, has been unclear since.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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