The Afghan Taliban have published a surprise biography of the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, to mark his 19th year as their supreme leader.
The 5,000-word biography on their main website clarifies disputed facts about his birth and upbringing.
It lists his favourite weapon – the RPG 7 – and says he leads a simple life and has a “special” sense of humour.
It says Mullah Omar, whose whereabouts are unknown, “remains in touch” with day-to-day Afghan and world events.
The US state department has a $10m bounty on Mullah Omar, who has not been seen since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
It was Mullah Omar’s backing for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden that sparked the campaign.
It is unclear why the Taliban have chosen the 19th anniversary of his supreme leadership to publish the biography but some analysts say it may be an attempt to counter the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Commentators and Taliban watchers have been unable to agree on many facts about Mullah Omar, including his birth and heritage.
The biography says he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province, in the south of the country.
It refers to the supreme leader as Mullah Mohammad Umar “Mujahid” and says he is from the Tomzi clan of the Hotak tribe.
It says his father was Moulavi Ghulam Nabi, a “respected erudite and social figure” who died five years after Mohammed Omar’s birth. The family moved to Uruzgan province.
The biography says Mullah Omar abandoned his studies in a madrassa school after the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and became a jihadist “to discharge his religious obligation”.
It lists his military feats fighting the Russians between 1983 and 1991, saying he was wounded four times and lost his right eye.
In 1994 Mullah Omar took over leading the Islamic mujahideen to tackle the “factional fighting” among warlords that followed the collapse of the communist regime in 1992.
Then in 1996 he was conferred the title “ameer-ul-momineen” (head of the pious believers), the biography says, becoming supreme leader.
After taking Kabul and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the biography tells of the “arrogant infidel powers of the world” who “could not tolerate Sharia law” and launched a joint military invasion.
In a section on his “charismatic personality”, the biography says Mullah Omar
- is tranquil and does not lose either temper or courage
- does not own a home and has no foreign bank account
- is affable, has a special sense of humour and never considers himself superior to his colleagues
In a section entitled “His daily activities in the present circumstances”, the biography says: “In the present crucial conditions and regularly being tracked by the enemy, no major change and disruption has been observed in the routine works of [Mullah Omar]”.
It says he “keenly follows and inspects the jihadi activities against the brutal infidel foreign invaders” adding: “He remains in touch with the day-to-day happenings of his country as well as the outside world.”
Some analysts believe Mullah Omar may be operating along or across the border in Pakistan.