Skip to main content
CNN EditionWorld
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

The hunt for Mullah Omar

From Mike Boettcher

Mullah Mohammed Omar
Mullah Mohammed Omar

Story Tools

more video VIDEO
CNN's Mike Boettcher reports on the difficulties facing U.S. troops and their allies in finding Taliban leader Mullah Omar (March 12)
premium content
Paula Zahn
•  Watch "American Morning" on CNN U.S. from 7 to 10 a.m. ET for the weeklong series.
•  Wednesday: The hunt for Mullah Omar

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Since a U.S-led coalition booted the Taliban and its leaders from power in Afghanistan in December 2001 for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden after September 11, the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has vanished.

Omar's appearance remains a mystery to many, and that presents a challenge to those on his trail, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"If I come across him tomorrow in the streets of Kabul or Kandahar or Herat or Mazar in Afghanistan, I would not recognize him," Karzai said on CNN's "Late Edition" this month. "How would you arrest someone that you don't know how he looks?"

Only a few photos of Omar have surfaced, but it is known that he lost an eye after being wounded in battle.

Photographer Khalid Hadi, who has photographed Omar, says few people know what he looks like. Omar, who was a rural Islamic cleric, became a leader of a group of students that took over Afghanistan in the early 1990s and established a hard-line Islamic fundamentalist regime that gave shelter to bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

"When he was a leader, at that time in his office, it was not allowed a camera, a video camera, or other stuff," Hadi said.

There are persistent reports from coalition intelligence sources that he is in western Afghanistan, particularly in the Kandahar region, once a stronghold of the Taliban, and nearby provinces.

The United States initially thought it might have cornered Omar when it launched an attack that hit a wedding party near his extended family's home in Uruzgan Province in July. The Pentagon acknowledged that more than 30 people were killed in the attack, most of them women and children. Pentagon officials expressed regret for the incident, but said the intended targets were hostile forces operating in the area.

The hunt for Omar has focused recently on the areas around Uruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand, according to coalition intelligence sources.

"It's really difficult for me to say in certain terms as to where he could be," Karzai said. "Probably in Afghanistan, probably on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan or, God knows, on some other borders."

A picture obtained by Hadi and printed in Vanity Fair earlier this year is said to be the most recent of Mullah Omar. There was also a letter, with a signature said to match Mullah Omar's.

"They write in the letter," Hadi said, "'I am still alive and my mission. Maybe we will come back.'"

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.