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interview: haji omar

photo of haji omar

He's the leader of Taliban forces in South Waziristan and previously was one of Mullah Omar's deputies in Afghanistan until the Taliban was toppled in late 2001. Omar and four other militant leaders (collectively known as the "Wana Five," named after the capital of South Waziristan) signed a peace deal with the Pakistani government, in which they pledged to halt attacks into Afghanistan; to stop attacking the Pakistani military; and to cease harboring foreign militants.

Here, in a rare interview that was conducted in August 2006 for FRONTLINE by a Pakistani journalist, Omar says he intends to keep sending fighters across the border into Afghanistan, despite the agreement he signed. He also pledges to continue fighting the United States. "America and its friends including Britain, France and Germany have toppled our Islamic government in Afghanistan. We have started jihad against them," he says. "When Afghanistan will be free, we will go after them in Iraq. When Iraq will be free, we will go after them in Lebanon. In every country where they are being brutal, we will try to do jihad against them."

I would like to start with the incident of 9/11, in response to which Americans attacked Afghanistan. Now they say that foreign terrorists have escaped from Afghanistan into the tribal areas. What do you have to say about all of this?

When they started bombing Afghanistan, Bush said, "I am not going to spare the militants." They bombed Afghanistan and some were thrown in Pakistan as well. They bombed a village of Pakistan claiming that there are foreign terrorists there but there were no terrorists there and only innocent people were martyred.

What do you have to say about the Americans' allegation that there were foreigners in that area?

That was a lie! There are only Afghan refugees who came here long ago and [the Americans] claim that they are foreigners. These refugees have been here for a long time now. Still, they ruined those people's houses and caused them so much stress but they couldn't find anyone there.

Then they said that Osama and Mullah Omar are in tribal areas. They have been saying this for five years now but they have not found any evidence yet. They are just making it up.

… What do you know about Nek Mohammed and his history?

Nek Mohammed and I did jihad from the Taliban time. Then, when the Americans came, we came to the tribal area from Afghanistan since we have our lands and houses here. Then Pakistan accused us [of] giving shelter to foreigners. They attacked and destroyed Nek Mohammed's and my house. Now, some of us have died and some are alive but we will continue our jihad as long as they are friends with America.

Tell me about Nek Mohammed. …

Nek Mohammed was a militant and he made a lot of sacrifices in Afghanistan and during the operations in Pakistan. He was martyred by the combined strategy of Pakistan and America.

What reasons did they give for martyring him?

He was killed because he was doing jihad.

You just commemorated one year of his death. What is the purpose of commemorating his death?

Since he has made so many sacrifices, we do this every year in his memory. It also uplifts the militants' morale.

Before his death, Nek Mohammed and his friends had a historic pact with the government that is known as Shikai pact. … Who broke the pact? Was Nek Mohammed right in saying that the government violated the pact?

The pact was fine but it was violated by Pakistan. After the pact, Pakistan talked about the registration of [foreigners]. However, registration was not part of the pact and therefore, Pakistan violated the pact.

Do you have a written copy of the pact that shows if registration was a part of it or not?

I have the proof, the paper and everything that registration of people was not part of the pact. Over this issue, we had a conflict with them and the pact was broken. …

Even when the Shikai pact was broken, your people had another pact with the government in Wana. What was that pact?

We signed that pact with the agreements that we will not fight with Pakistan in Wana. Pakistan will remove its new posts. The army will stay at the boundary line but they will remove the army from Wana and the government will solve local people's problems.

The government has still not removed the new army posts, which is a violation of the pact. However, we are letting it go for now as long as there is a no fight.

After the pact, the head of the army for the tribal areas, Gen. Safdar Hussein, said during an interview in Peshawar that [money was given to Taliban commanders, including yourself, to pay debts to Al Qaeda]. What do you have to say about this?

… There is no reality in this.

[Whom do you represent in Waziristan?]

In Waziristan, there are only militants of Waziristan or militants from other parts of Pakistan. They come and we send them for jihad. Since there is already jihad going on in Afghanistan, people want to go there for jihad. This jihad has been going on for a long time now and whoever comes to us, we send them for jihad.

What do you have to say about the allegation that ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] helps Taliban in going for jihad to Afghanistan?

This is a false allegation. Pakistan ISI doesn't help militants at all. Militants have their resources and they go by themselves. They are doing this with the help of God and they don't need ISI help.

Did Americans and the ISI help you in the jihad against the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan?

Four years after the Russian attack on Afghanistan, they started receiving aid. For four years, no one helped the mujahideen. No one even knew who these mujahideen are, what have they come for.

When their purpose was known, Muslim countries started to help them since mujahideen were fighting against a non-Muslim country. They would give their aid to [then-Pakistani President] Zia ul-Haq and Zia ul-Haq would then give it to the mujahideen. At that time, everything from flour, tents, blankets to weapons were given to the mujahideen. …

So after four years, when the mujahideen started getting all this aid, their jihad gained strength and eventually, Russia had to succumb to defeat.

Is the ISI currently helping the mujahideen?

That has been proven wrong because at that time, the whole world was supporting mujahideen against the Russians, but now the entire world is against the mujahideen. Whether Muslim countries or non-Muslim countries, everyone is supporting America. They cannot help the mujahideen because if they do, they will be in danger themselves.

It is said that 150 people have died in Waziristan, some of whom were tribal elders supporting the government or others believed to be spying for America. What do you have to say about these people? Why did they die? …

Among these people, newspaper reporters have died, maliks have died and Afghanis have died. But no one knows for sure how did they die. Whether Pakistan did that or someone else? Mujahideen don't have the information about that. Nothing has been found about these killings and no one knows if Pakistan is behind it or Afghanistan. …

But the government blames Taliban for the killing of tribal leaders.

They blame us but it is actually ISI who is doing it. It is either ISI or the Karzai government and they are doing it to create conflict among the tribals. Pakistan and Afghanistan wants mujahideen to fight among each other but that is not going to happen.

You just mentioned journalists; in North Waziristan, journalist Hayat Ullah Khan was first abducted and then killed after a few months. What do you have to say about the whole incident? Who did that and who is responsible?

I don't have the correct information about that; whether the Afghanistan government did that or the Pakistan government did that. We don't have correct information of that.

People blame the government in Hayat Ullah's case. What do you say about that?

There must be some reason that people are blaming the government. They must be suspecting something. …

Another thing that I have heard coming from your side is that Waziristan is under the Taliban's control, meaning it is under your control. How much of that is true? Also, Taliban now mention the word "Islamic Republic of Waziristan" in pamphlets and other statements. So kindly elaborate on this.

It's Pakistan's government here. The Pakistani army is here and Pakistani camps are here. I will do whatever I can for peace of my land. Pakistan has its own law and its own government. I don't interfere in that. …

But the circumstances are different from what you are saying. Because in South Waziristan, people say that it is Taliban's government, Taliban's offices and people solve their problems in these offices.

There definitely are offices of mujahideen because jihad cannot be done without offices. But other than that Pakistan has its own law and its own way.

We are against un-Islamic things and we don't let that happen. ... We won't allow alcohol and other un-Islamic things here; that's it. Otherwise, there is only one government. We have not made two governments here.

You repeated again and again that you will continue jihad against America and allied forces in Afghanistan and even against Pakistan. Can you elaborate? What is this jihad for and how will you continue it?

I am not against Pakistan nor is Pakistan is against me. If Pakistan goes against me, I will go against Pakistan. America is against us. America and its friends, including Britain, France and Germany, have toppled our Islamic government in Afghanistan. We have started jihad against them. This jihad will continue as long as they will continue their cruel acts in other countries. ... They are doing it in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Afghanistan will be free, we will go after them in Iraq. When Iraq will be free, we will go after them in Lebanon. In every country where they are being brutal, we will try to do jihad against them. And whether Muslim or non-Muslim, no one deserves brutality. They have become united to finish Muslims and God willing, we will unite to finish them. This process will continue.

The Americans and the Afghan government complain that they are being attacked in Afghanistan from Pakistan's soil.

Afghanistan's accusation is wrong. No attacks are launched from the Waziristan Agency in the tribal area of Pakistan. All the attacks are launched at them from Afghanistan's soil. I don't know if people from Waziristan go there to attack or the people in Afghanistan do that, but no attacks are launched from Pakistan's soil. This is just a false allegation.

But you just said that your jihad would continue against them in Afghanistan. They say that mujahideen come from Pakistan and they attack us.

I have property both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. So when I am in Afghanistan, I will naturally go for jihad.

So this is true that you will continue jihad against the Americans in Afghanistan.

It will definitely continue until the point we beat them. God willing, we will take aid from different resources and beat them on this soil, since they have been very brutal on this soil.

Secondly, they are close to defeat. They are losers in ground battle. They are okay in air battle but in ground battle, I have come to realize that they are losers.

On the one-year anniversary of Nek Mohammed's death, you said that suicide attacks against America will continue in Afghanistan. Can you elaborate on that?

They have invaded an Islamic country, so whether it is suicide attack or any other way, we will fight with them. We will use all the possible methods on them. ... They have un-justly occupied Afghanistan. …

Do you want to say something on your own behalf?

I want to say that these allied countries stop their cruelty against Muslims; it is a very damaging thing. They bombed Afghanistan, other countries and tribal areas of Pakistan, martyring small children. This will not help them at all. Instead, the number of mujahideen will increase with this. …

If they think that mujahideen are finished, they are wrong because mujahideen will never finish. What they should do is that go back to where they have come from and live happily there. They have nothing to gain from the wars here. They have no idea but they are going to face a lot of damage. But if they leave this land, it will be beneficial for them.

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posted oct. 3, 2006

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