Kabul The Afghan government on Monday denied reports that the founder of the Taliban terror group had lived near two US bases in the South Asian country for years.
Dutch journalist Bette Dam had claimed that the Taliban’s elusive one-eyed leader Mullah Omar lived within walking distance of the two American bases in Afghanistan and later died in the country, in her new book, “The Secret Life of Mullah Omar”.
According to the book, Mullah Omar never hid in Pakistan as believed by the US and instead lived in hiding three miles from a major US Forward Operating Base in his home province of Zabul in Afghanistan.
It claims that American troops once even searched the house where Mullah Omar was hiding but failed to find a secret room built for him.
Afghan government spokesperson Arif Samin dismissed the claims and said that there was “no ambiguity in the fact that Mullah Omar lived and died in Pakistan”, Efe news reported.
“It is very clear, there is no ambiguity in this issue to be investigated again. It is an established fact and based on exact sources and concrete proof that Mullah Omar was living there and died over there in a Karachi hospital,” he added.
The presence of the Taliban faction, Haqqani Network and the leadership of Quetta Shura in Pakistan was “general knowledge”, Samin claimed.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesperson Haroon Chakhansuri said: “We strongly reject this delusional claim… We have sufficient evidence, which shows he lived and died in Pakistan. Period!” he tweeted.
In the book, that Dam wrote after a five-year-long investigation, she claimed that soon after the fall of the Taliban, Mullah Omar — on whose head the US placed a $10 million bounty after the 9/11 terror attacks — hid in secret rooms in a house close to a base, according to the Guardian.
US forces even searched the accommodation on one occasion, but failed to find his hiding place, it added.
He later moved to a second building just three miles from another US base, home to about 1,000 troops, Dam said, adding that Mullah Omar regularly listened to the BBC’s Pashto language service, but rarely commented on news of the outside world.
Although it was believed that he was the top leader of the Taliban group, the book claims that in 2001 he delegated responsibilities to others and became a recluse until his death.
However, he is said to have approved the Taliban office in Qatar, where US officials have been talking with Taliban leaders in a bid to end the long war in Afghanistan, the BBC said.
The journalist also interviewed Jabbar Omari, former Governor of the Taliban regime, who effectively became Mullah Omar’s bodyguard when he went into hiding after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001.
Omari hid the Taliban leader until his death from illness in 2013.
The book says that Mullah Omar rarely went outside and would often hide in the irrigation tunnels as US planes flew over or troops passed by.
Mullah Omar had an old Nokia mobile phone, without a SIM card, that he used for recording himself chanting verses from the Quran, the book says.
The book claims that Mullah Omar signed control of the Taliban over to his Defence Minister Mullah Obaidullah in December 2001.
Mullah Omar died on April 23, 2013, and was buried without a coffin in a featureless grave, Dam said.