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Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar 'lived close to US bases'

Mullah Omar
Image caption Mullah Omar, filmed in secret by a BBC crew in 1996, is believed to have died from illness in 2013

Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar lived within walking distance of US bases in Afghanistan, a new book has claimed.

Bette Dam's The Secret Life of Mullah Omar says the leader never hid in Pakistan as believed by the US.

Instead, he lived in hiding just three miles from a major US Forward Operating Base in his home province of Zabul.

Dutch journalist Ms Dam spent five years researching and interviewing Taliban members for her book.

She managed to speak to Jabbar Omari, the man who effectively became Omar's bodyguard when he went into hiding after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Mr Omari hid the Taliban leader until his death from illness in 2013.

Soon after the fall of the Taliban, Omar - on whose head the US placed a $10m (£7.7m) bounty after the 11 September terror attacks - hid in secret rooms in a house close to a base.

US forces even searched the accommodation on one occasion, but failed to find his hiding place, the book says.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Taliban leader remained a key figurehead despite not having day-to-day involvement

He later moved to a second building just three miles from another US base, home to about 1,000 troops.

Ms Dam was told that Omar got his news from the BBC's Pashto language service.

Despite claims by the militants, Omar could not run the Taliban group from his hiding places.

But he is said to have approved a Taliban office in the Gulf state of Qatar, where US officials are talking with Taliban leaders in a bid to end the long war in Afghanistan.

Ms Dam's book was published in Dutch last month, and is set to be available in English shortly.

Other key findings in the book:

  • Mullah Omar signed control of the Taliban over to his defence minister, Mullah Obaidullah, in December 2001
  • He lived three miles from Forward Operating Base Wolverine, home to 1,000 US troops and where US Navy Seals and British SAS forces were sometimes based
  • Omar would sometimes hide in irrigation tunnels to avoid detection
  • He lived in isolation and wrote notebook entries in an invented language
  • He died on 23 April 2013 and was buried without a coffin in a featureless grave

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