CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: Mullah Omar, the Ascetic with Golden Chandeliers
Huggler, Justin, The Independent (London, England)
MULLAH MOHAMMED Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban, lived in a strange sort of luxury. Gold-plated chandeliers hung above his bed. He even had his own private mosque, complete with mirrored minarets. It is not the sort of house where you would have expected to find a dictator so austere that he banned music.
Triumphant anti-Taliban fighters were giving guided tours yesterday at Mullah Omar's vast compound on the edge of Kandahar, the city where the Taliban first seized power, and where they finally lost it last week. Mujahedin took turns to try out Mullah Omar's imported mattress - beds are a rare luxury in Afghanistan, where most people sleep on the floor.
But, for all that, Mullah Omar's palace resembles nothing so much as a Seventies motel. The walls of the bedroom are decorated with moulded Formica painted brown to look like wood. The private mosque is a lurid shade of green and blue. The minarets even have little bits of mirror stuck to them to catch the light.
Visitors trampled all over what was once Mullah Omar's private world, mocking the rather naive murals of waterfalls and villages painted on the inside of the compound walls. You could even inspect his private bathroom, complete with not one but two squatter toilets, side by side. His and hers?
Kandahar is dotted with strangely luxurious houses among the long bombed-out ruins of the city, some lying in disrepair for 20 years. Many belonged to senior Taliban - and some are thought to have belonged to senior members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network.
Perhaps Mr bin Laden once stayed in Mullah Omar's home. If so, the accommodation was a far cry from the austere caves in which he is now reported to be hiding in Afghanistan.
In some ways, the property resembles an American ranch with a large open- air compound and ample stabling for horses and camels. About half of Mullah Omar's ranch lies in ruins, entire buildings reduced to rubble by American bombs. US special forces in desert camouflage were at the compound yesterday. Anti-Taliban tribal leaders say the soldiers who have established a base near Kandahar have removed boxes of evidence from Mullah Omar's compound. Here and there was the smell of a rotting corpse. Apparently the destroyed buildings included the house of one of Mullah Omar's three wives, where he would sometimes have slept.
Much has been said about the accuracy of the American bombing here. The Taliban's criminal investigation bureau is a pile of rubble, for example, but the houses next to it still stand. No civilians were hit. …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: Mullah Omar, the Ascetic with Golden Chandeliers. Contributors: Huggler, Justin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 13, 2001. Page number: 15. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.