“Hello? Please Hold for Mullah Omar . . .”

The French newsmagazine Nouvel Observateur reports that Taliban spiritual chief, Mullah Omar, recently popped into view again, revealing his whereabouts – roughly speaking. These days, of course, the good mullah ranks up in the same league with Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as a personality to whom Western governments would dearly love to extend special hospitality: his very own heavily-armed bodyguard, his specially-outfitted cell, even a starring role in a judicial trial. (Hey, there’s no reason why Saddam Hussein deserves an exclusive here.) It turns out that officers from the Afghan government managed to catch him on the telephone.

The break that made this possible was the capture last Tuesday by Afghan intelligence agents of mullah Sakhi Dad Mujahid, known to have been Mullah Omar’s personal secretary during the Taliban’s heyday in the country from 1996 to the fall of 2001, and now thought to be his military assistant. Mujahid was captured during a raid about 70km north of Kandahar (in southern Afghanistan – definitely “Taliban country”). He was found to have a satellite telephone on his person; and that satellite telephone was found to be programmed with some numbers. So – what the hey? – the Afghan agents gave these numbers a try. And they were rewarded with a brief conversation with someone they’re pretty sure was the Mullah himself, which however ended rather abruptly once he got suspicious about who he was speaking with.

(By the way, once again the EuroSavant is glad to open his comment section – or just e-mail me directly if you’re shy – to reader speculation as to how that conversation might have sounded. The leading candidate so far is “Abdullah’s pizza-to-go here – where were we supposed to deliver this again?”)

After that, Mullah Omar showed himself not to be in a very friendly mood, leaving unanswered subsequent attempts to call again and pick up the conversation. Meanwhile, Mujahid was hustled up to Kabul to be pumped further for information, as surely only those folks over there know how to pump. Quite apart from that, though, you can be sure that US military authorities can do a lot with the confirmed Mullah Omar electronic transmissions resulting from this incident. Don’t be surprised if the alleged Bush administration plan for a July surprise to steal the thunder from the upcoming Democratic convention might be coming closer to reality.

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