Despite his former political rank, and his current high status on terrorism wanted lists, not much is publicly known about this man. Few photos, none of them official, exist of him. The authenticity of the existing images is debated. Apart from the fact that he is missing one eye, accounts of his physical appearance are contradictory: some people who have met him describe him as a tall man and others as small and frail. He has been described as shy and untalkative with foreigners, and sometimes as downright ignorant.
During his tenure as "emir" of Afghanistan, Omar seldom left Kandahar and almost never met with non-Muslims. Most of the contact between the regime and the rest of the world was via the foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil.
Omar was wounded four times, and lost an eye either in 1986 or in the 1989 Battle of Jalalabad, which also marred his cheek and forehead. Taliban lore has it that, upon being wounded by a piece of shrapnel, Omar removed his own eye and sewed the eyelid shut. However, reports from a Red Cross facility near the Pakistan border indicate that Omar was treated there for the injury, where his eye was surgically removed.
After he was disabled, Omar may have studied and taught in a madrasah, or Islamic seminary, in the Pakistani border city of Quetta. He was reportedly a mullah at a village madrasah near the Afghan city of Kandahar.
Unlike most of the Afghan mujahideen, Omar speaks passable Arabic. He was "devoted to the lectures of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam. Piety, modesty, and courage were the main features of his personality," according to Lawrence Wright.
Reportedly, in early 1994, Omar led 30 men armed with 16 rifles to free two girls who had been kidnapped and raped by local commanders. His movement gained momentum through the year, and he quickly gathered recruits from Islamic schools. By November 1994, Omar's movement managed to capture the province of Kandahar and then captured Herat in September 1995.
In April 1996, supporters of Mullah Omar bestowed on him the title Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين, "Commander of the Faithful"), after he took a cloak alleged to be that of Muhammad out of a series of chests it was locked in, held in a shrine in Kandahar. Legend decreed that whoever could retrieve the cloak from the chests would be the great Leader of the Muslims, or "Amir al-Mu'minin". In September that year, Kabul fell to Mullah Omar and his followers.
Under Omar's rule lawlessness and crime diminished, but fighting and the suffering of civilians from destruction of war continued. What his regime was most famous for was its enforcement of a particularly strict version of Islamic Law (the Sharia or Path). The only professions open to women in government-run organisations were in the field of medicine, and the women working as doctors or nurses could only treat other women. Women were also not permitted to attend co-educational schools; in practice, this prevented the vast majority of young women and girls in Afghanistan from receiving even a primary education. In major cities, a stringent interpretation of the Islamic dress code, specifically the Hijab or Veil, was enforced: women could not leave the house without a burqa. Men were forced to grow beards and avoid non-Islamic haircuts or dress. Cinemas were closed and music banned. Theft was punished by the amputation of a hand, rape and murder by public execution. Married adulterers were stoned to death. In Kabul, punishments were carried out in front of crowds in the city's former soccer stadium. Hundreds of cultural artifacts that were deemed polytheistic were also destroyed including major museum and countless private art collections. Mullah Mohammed Omar defended his order saying it was an honor for Islam, despite international outcries, which intensified with the destruction in 2001 of the Buddhas of Bamyan.
Omar renamed Afghanistan the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in October 1997, but did not move to Kabul, which has been the capital of Afghanistan for several centuries. Omar only visited Kabul twice during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, preferring to rule from his base in Kandahar.
On November 15, 2001, following the 9/11 attack on America and the American retaliatory attack on the Taliban, Omar talked in a BBC interview of the need for a "screening" of the Taliban for loyalty, which "is a big task;" and of "the destruction of America ... extinction of America" a plan for which "is going ahead and, God willing, it is being implemented." Asked about the possibility of representatives of "moderate Taliban" joining the new government, Omar proclaimed,
All Taliban are moderate. There are two things: extremism ["ifraat", or doing something to excess] and conservatism ["tafreet", or doing something insufficiently]. So in that sense, we are all moderates - taking the middle path.
After the United States invasion of Afghanistan began in 2001, Omar went into hiding and is still at large. He is thought to be in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States government is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture. Omar is believed to have played a significant role in the ending of the Waziristan War between Waziri Pashtuns and the government of Pakistan in September, 2006. He continues to have the allegiance of prominent pro-Taliban military leaders in the region, including Jalaluddin Haqqani. Former foe Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction has also reportedly allied with Omar and the Taliban.
In April 2004 Omar, with Mohammad Shehzad had a telephone interview.
A captured Taliban spokesman, Muhammad Hanif, told Afghan authorities in January 2007, that Omar was being protected by the Inter-Services Intelligence in Quetta, Pakistan. This matches an allegation made by the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, in 2006, though it is denied by officials in Pakistan.
Numerous statements reportedly from Omar have been released. In June 2006 a statement regarding the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq was released hailing al-Zarqawi as a martyr and claimed that the resistance movements in Afghanistan and Iraq "will not be weakened". Then in December 2006 Omar issued statement expressing confidence that foreign forces will be driven out of Afghanistan.
In January 2007, it was reported that Omar made his 'first exchange with a journalist since going into hiding' in 2001, via Muhammad Hanif, in which he promised 'more Afghan War'. In April 2007, Omar issued another statement through an intermediary encouraging more suicide attacks.