Taliban finally reveal burial place of founder Mullah Omar, nine years after death

Taliban finally reveal burial place of founder Mullah Omar, nine years after death
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday that senior leaders of the movement attended a ceremony at the gravesite of Mullah Omar, the group's founder, earlier in the day.
3 min read
06 November, 2022
The Taliban only admitted in April 2015 that founder Mullah Omar had died two years earlier [AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP/Getty-file photo]

The Taliban on Sunday revealed the final resting place of the extremist movement's founder, Mullah Omar, whose death and burial they kept secret for years.

Rumours surrounding Omar's health and whereabouts abounded after the Taliban were kicked out of power in Afghanistan in 2001 by a US-led invasion, and they only admitted in April 2015 that he had died two years earlier.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Sunday that senior leaders of the movement attended a ceremony at his gravesite earlier in the day near Omarzo, in Suri district of Zabul province.

The Taliban returned to power in August last year, routing the country's government as the US-led forces that propped it up ended a 20-year occupation.

"Since a lot of enemies were around and the country was occupied, to avoid damage to the tomb it was kept secret," Mujahid said.

"Only the close family members were aware of the place," he added.

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Pictures released by officials showed Taliban leaders gathered around a simple white brick tomb, covered with what appears to be gravel and enclosed in a green metal cage.

"Now the decision has been made… there are no issues for the people to visit the tomb," Mujahid said.

Omar, who was aged around 55 when he died, founded the Taliban in 1993 as an antidote to the internecine civil war that erupted following the decade-long Soviet occupation.

Under his leadership the Taliban introduced an extremely conservative version of Islamic rule, barring women from public life and introducing harsh public punishments – including executions and floggings.

Massoud tomb reported vandalised

Omar's ceremony comes a day after provincial Taliban officials denied reports that the Panjshir Valley tomb of resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud had been vandalised, an act Mujahid said would be "punished" if true.

Massoud has a mixed legacy in the country, where he is hailed by ordinary Afghans for leading the resistance against the Soviet occupation, but loathed by the Taliban he also fought until his 2001 assassination by Al-Qaeda.

His tomb is in an imposing granite and marble mausoleum overlooking the picturesque Panjshir Valley, and guarded by Taliban fighters since their takeover of the country in August last year.

Local residents said a newly arrived contingent of fighters smashed the tombstone, and video of the desecrated grave – which could not be verified – was published by local media and circulating widely on social channels.

"It happened when the new forces entered Panjshir. The new forces from Helmand and Kandahar destroyed the tombstone of the national hero," one resident told AFP.

Nasrullah Malakzada, head of information and culture of Panjshir province, denied the tomb had been damaged and issued a video purporting to show it intact.

The clip, however, pointedly did not display the entire structure – particularly the part seen damaged in the original video.

Malakzada refused requests by journalists to visit or photograph the tomb for themselves.

Mujahid told reporters that nobody had the right to insult the dead.

"Previously we had punished those who committed such acts," he said, adding "this will be investigated as well and necessary action will be taken".