On July 29th, the govenrment of Afghanistan announced that it believed Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, had died in a hospital in Pakistain in 2013.
From 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Mullah Omar was the country’s de-facto head of state. The US, and most of the rest of the internaitonal community, didn’t recognise the Taliban regime as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. But the late jihadist leader still had a single, very strange interraction with US diplomats.
In retaliation against the al Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.
Two days after the strikes, Mullah Omar called the US State Department and issued the country a dire warning, according to Lawrence Wright’s acclaimed book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11.”
Over the phone, Omar told State Department official Michael E. Malinowski that “the strikes would only arouse anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world and provoke more acts of terrorism … The best solution was for President Clinton to resign.”
In response, Wright notes, Malinowski replied that the strikes against al Qaeda and bin Laden specifically were justified, as the al Qaeda chief, who was living under Taliban protectoin in Afghanistan, was “behaving like a guest who was shooting at neighbours from the host’s windows.” Malinowski reiterated the US’ demand that the Taliban cease providing bin Laden with support and force him to leave Afghanistan.
Ultimately Omar continued to give bin Laden sanctuary despite US and Saudi pressure. His support for al Qaeda culminated in the September 11 attacks and the subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Omar has not been seen in public.
The government of Afghanistan considers the latest news of Omar’s death to be credible. But multiple previous reports of the Taliban leader’s death that have proven false, and the Taliban have yet to comment on the most recent claims of Omar’s death.
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