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Kabul Unsympathetic To Mourning Mullah Omar

Afghan National Army (ANA) Soldiers during a military operation in Faryab province, June 2015.
Afghan National Army (ANA) Soldiers during a military operation in Faryab province, June 2015.

Upon learning that its elusive and longtime adversary is dead, Kabul is taking steps to ensure that Afghans don't mourn the loss of Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Security forces were ordered by the government on August 3 to prevent citizens from publicly grieving over the Taliban leader's death, and were reminded by National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Haseeb Siddiqui that Mullah Omar was "the biggest cause of war and backwardness in the modern history of Afghanistan."

Siddiqui said that any ceremony held in Mullah Omar's honor would be seen as an "insult" to his thousands of victims and would be considered a "legitimate" target for security forces to attack.

Backing the government's ban with actions, Afghan troops swooped in on a ceremony honoring Mullah Omar in eastern Ghazni Province on August 4, according to local media.

According to the province's deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, five Taliban fighters were killed and several others injured during the raid.

Mullah Omar in an undated photograph
Mullah Omar in an undated photograph

In the wake of Mullah Omar's 2013 death, which was confirmed last week, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said that dozens of gatherings have taken place across Afghanistan to both remember Mullah Omar and to express support for his stated successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansur.

Supporters of the extremist group have also reportedly offered funeral prayers for their late leader at mosques in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities, including Karachi and Lahore.

Afghan media, however, have reported that the Taliban has been forcing local residents to attend mourning ceremonies by setting up roadblocks and ordering commuters to go.

Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans took to the streets to condemn Mullah Omar and denounce vows by his successor to continue fighting in Afghanistan.

In Parwan Province, north of Kabul, a large-scale anti-Taliban rally reportedly took place on August 4, according to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

"Many people from the provincial capital, Chari Kar, and other districts are attending the rally, and they denounce any funerals held for Mullah Omar, saying such funerals would give legitimacy to the Taliban militancy," RFE/RL correspondent Ahmad Hanaesh reported from Parwan.

Authorities have stepped up security over the past two days to prevent any violence, as the atmosphere is "highly charged," the correspondent said.

An anti-Taliban rally was also held in central Bamiyan Province, where the Taliban infamously demolished two ancient giant Buddha statues in 2001 and have long targeted members of the province's Shi'ite Hazara minority.

The August 4 rally -- led by Bamiyan's civil activists, local religious council leaders, and former mujahedin -- said any commemoration or tribute was "unjustifiable" and "unacceptable."

Muhammad Sajjad Mohseni, a spokesman for the Bamiyan religious council, said reports that some members of the Afghanistan Peace Council attended a Kabul commemoration service for Mullah Omar on August 3 were "disappointing."

"Mullah Omar and his followers are responsible for the deaths of so many people in this nation," Mohseni told the rally.

Participants in an anti-Taliban gathering in Kabul on August 2 focused on the militant group's atrocities against women, arguing that brutality against women was Mullah Omar's main legacy.

Activists created a mock scene depicting masked men flogging and shooting burqa-clad women in public, a notorious Taliban-era practice.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and other Afghan media
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.