KABUL: The Afghan government denied allegations on Monday that one of the world’s most wanted men, Mullah Mohammad Omar, lived undetected near a US military base for several years.
The claim, made by Dutch journalist Bette Dam in her new book “Searching for an Enemy,” contradicts statements by US and Afghan officials who maintain Omar fled to Pakistan in 2001, where he later died.
Dam — who has written extensively on Afghanistan and published a book on the former president, Hamid Karzai — suggested Omar lived within walking distance of a base in Zabul province for some time, albeit as a virtual hermit, refusing to meet family members and writing a journal in an invented language.
Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said the claim was untrue.
“Not only (do) we reject it, we see it as an effort to create an identity for the Taliban and their foreign backers. Evidence shows Omar lived and died in Pakistan,” he told Arab News.
The book, released during peace talks being held between the group and US diplomats in Doha, has drawn criticism from across Afghanistan.
Ahmad Saeedi, a former Afghan diplomat in Pakistan, said the report would “boost the Taliban’s image” by suggesting its leader escaped US attention despite “America’s sophisticated surveillance technology.”
Amrullah Saleh, who served in Afghan intelligence and cooperated with the Central Intelligence Agency during the US invasion, said the report was wrong.
“I could give very hard evidence that he lived in Pakistan and died there,” he said, before claiming he would provide it at a later stage when pressed by Dam on Twitter.
Dam, for her part, says she spent over five years researching Omar, including interviewing Jabbar Omari, the bodyguard who protected him after 2001.
She said Omar listened to BBC Pashto for news broadcasts every evening, but that — even when learning of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s death — he rarely commented on the outside world or the affairs of the group.
The family sharing his compound were unaware of his identity, despite US forces almost capturing him twice, and Washington offering a $10 million reward for his capture.
The Afghan Taliban did not comment.