To most Afghans, the late Mohammad Omar was an enemy of the state, a religious fanatic who oversaw five years of repressive rule and then launched a ruthless insurgent campaign that has killed thousands of his countrymen and fellow Muslims.
But in pockets of ethnic Pashtun culture, in scattered Sunni mosques, among some religious political parties and even in some corridors of government, there is a soft spot for the Taliban founder, whose long-rumored death two years ago was revealed in late July.
As a result, the government of President Ashraf Ghani, under siege from a protracted Taliban offensive that has taken more than 3,300 civilian lives since January, has suddenly found itself faced with embarrassing reports of scattered mourning ceremonies or gatherings being held in Omar’s honor.
Several such events, organized by the Taliban, have been raided by Afghan security forces. In Ghazni province, officials said Taliban fighters blocked roads and ordered residents to slaughter animals for a mourning rite last week. Afghan forces attacked the site, killing several insurgents.