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AHMAD SHAH MASSOUD was assassinated in a suicide bombing by Al-Qaida terrorists disguised as journalists on September 9, 2001, in Khwaja Bahaudin in Northern Afghanistan. He was 49.

Massoud was the military commander of the forces that resisted the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan; He commanded the only cohesive military opposition to the Taliban.

Massoud was born in 1953 in the village of Jangalak (Bazarak) in Panjshir, and raised in Kabul. His father was a colonel in the army of the former Afghan monarch Zahir Shah. Young Massoud went to the Afghan-French Lycee Istiqlal in Kabul. He then studied engineering at Kabul Polytechnic Institute. He joined a Muslim youth movement led by the Islamic scholar Burhanuddin Rabbani. Though he never completed his studies, he later hoped one day to use his knowledge of engineering to help rebuild his war-ravaged country.

Massoud joined guerrilla forces in 1975, fighting against the first post-royalist government of Afghanistan. He was forced to flee to Pakistan, then returned in 1978, taking command of the Mujahedeen forces operating in the Panjshir Valley against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. A brilliant strategist, Massoud continuously frustrated the occupying Soviet army by blocking its supply route through the Salang Pass that connected Northern Afghanistan with Kabul.

A legendary figure, Massoud was known as Amer Saheb (the chief), but became famous in the West as the "Lion of Panjshir" during the 1980s for his success in resisting and defeating seven major Soviet military efforts to seize his strategic stronghold North of Kabul. He was also credited for establishing local administrative capacity during war to deal with education, finance, justice and civil matters.

He and other prominent Afghan resistance fighters across the country emerged as the new generation of leaders with loose affiliations to political factions based in Pakistan and Iran. His extremist archrival, Gulbudin Hekmatyar, who received the largest share of arms and money sent from foreign supporters through a Pakistani-administered pipeline, had close ties to powerful circles of radical groups.

In 1989 the Soviet forces finally withdrew from Afghanistan. After successfully ousting Najibullah's government three years later, Massoud tried to prevent Hekmatyar from entering Kabul, but was compelled to enter the city when Hekmatyar forced his way into the capital. Massoud was able to oust his rival’s forces and took his place as Minister of Defence in the first post-Soviet regime, led by Sebghatullah Mojadedi and later Rabbani.

However, the government was plagued by in-fighting and shifting alliances, facing attacks from several foes, including Hekmatyar, who mercilessly shelled Kabul. Parts of Kabul were destroyed in the process and the country faced interferences from several neighboring countries.

When in 1996, Taliban forces, assisted by extremist militants, swept through Southern Afghanistan, they justified their coup with accusations that the Mujahedeen and other militia leaders had caused the battles of Kabul. They also falsely propagated that they were the Army of the former King Zahir Shah. Soon after, Pakistan officially recognized the Taliban regime, and members of the Clinton Administration and Unocal oil company held several meetings with the Taliban in the US and elsewhere.

However, as soon as Massoud retreated and Kabul fell into their hands, the Taliban turned against all their Afghan adversaries, including Zahir Shah, who did not agree with their austere form of governance. Taliban’s illiterate leader, Mullah Omar, appointed himself as “Emir of the Faithful”. They gradually associated their cause with extremist militants affiliated with radical madrassas (religious schools) based in Pakistan and terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida. Afghanistan became the training camp for thousands of extremist militants from around the world.

Massoud was forced to resume his life as a guerilla commander in the north, partly raising funds for his struggle through taxation of the trade in precious and semi-precious stones. He bought munitions from countries sympathetic to his cause. He was able to unite the opposition and head the United Front resistance group made up of minority communities and several prominent Pashtun leaders from Southern and Eastern Afghanistan.

His charismatic leadership brought much needed unity to the resistance and provided hope to many in the struggle against the Taliban regime, which had by 2001 attracted international criticism for its violations of human rights, its treatment of women, its destruction of the ancient Buddhas in Bamyan, and - especially in light of the recent attacks on America - for its protection of the Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Following the fall of many Afghan cities into Taliban hands, in September 2000 the Taliban regime seized the Northeastern town of Taloqan, where Massoud had his strategic headquarters. Fortified in his native Panjshir Valley, he pursued a political battle and appointed an Afghan diplomat and technocrat, Rahim Ghafoorzai, as the Prime Minister of the opposition government (who was killed in a plane crash in Bamiyan in 1997).

He also reached out to anti-Taliban moderate Pashtun leaders, including Hamid Karzai and Zahir Shah to broaden the anti-Taliban political base. These leaders reciprocated and Massoud met with Karzai, former renowned commander Abdul Haq and Zahir Shah’s emissaries inside Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001 to forge a united front against the Taliban. He supported Zahir Shah’s call to set up a representative Loya Jirga to determine Afghanistan’s political future.

His aides recall that the anti-Taliban forces (also known as the Northern Alliance) faced a strong enemy while their financial condition was deteriorating. However, Massoud and his associates managed to maintain control of the Northeast and pockets in the east, north, west and the central highlands.

Massoud rarely traveled overseas, but he visited Pakistan in 1990 for the last time, and made several trips to the neighboring region in the late 1990s to elicit support for his fight against the Taliban and Al Qaida. From 1998 till his death he visited Iran, India, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to maintain regional support for the resistance. He was planning to head the Afghan delegation to the UN General Assembly planned for mid-September 2001.

In April of 2001, Massoud made his first trip to the West, visiting Paris, Strasbourg and Brussels following an invitation from the President of the European Parliament. In a series of meetings, Massoud urged leaders to put political, military and financial pressure on Taliban.

Massoud warned that Bin Laden and other international terrorists, given sanctuary by the Taliban, not only posed a threat to Afghanistan, but also to the entire world. He urged the West, and in particular the United States, to take the matter seriously and adopt a clear policy towards Afghanistan. He also asked for humanitarian aid for all Afghans and condemned the Taliban's destruction in March of that year of the two ancient Buddha statues of Bamiyan.

But he ruled out the need for foreign military involvement. "We do not need foreign troops or advisers", he stated, "our people are ready to fight." The head of the European Parliament declared that Europe should grant "political recognition to Massoud and his moderate version of Islam".

In Brussels, where he met the EU’s security and foreign affairs chief, the Belgian foreign minister declared his government's intention to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

A devout man with charisma and culture, Massoud enjoyed history, literature and poetry. In his youth, he had read the works of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung. He was also a great admirer of General de Gaulle. He studied the Koran daily and often led his soldiers in prayer. Massoud strongly believed in Afghan independence, national unity and yearned to see the country’s reconstruction start at the end of the conflict.

Massoud was married with four daughters and a son; he lived with his family in his ancestral mud house on a mountainside in his native Bazarak. Posthumously, he was declared National Hero of Afghanistan by the Afghan Government in 2002. (compiled from various sources)

The Murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud: Ordered by bin Laden

The Middle East Media Research Institute – Special Dispatch, 7. November 2003

The second issue of "The Voice of Jihad," the new biweekly on-line magazine identified with Al-Qa'ida has been posted. 1 The following are excerpts from the latest issue, which includes a sequel to an interview with Abd Al-'Aziz bin 'Issa bin Abd Al-Mohsen, 2 also known as Abu Hajjer, who is one of the high-ranking Al-Qa'ida members on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted list. "

The magazine continued its biography of Sheikh Yousef Al-'Ayyiri, who served as personal bodyguard to Osama bin Laden and manager of the Al-Qa'ida website, until he was killed by Saudi security forces. The biography addresses Osama bin Laden's order for the murder of Ahmed Shah Massoud. According to the biographer, after Sheikh Al-'Ayyiri's release from a Saudi prison, he recruited youths and encouraged them to wage Jihad in Afghanistan and take part in the training camps there:

"Afterwards, the greatest event in Afghan history occurred - the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, and there was no describing Sheikh Al-'Ayyiri's joy. I remember asking him, 'What happened?' And he replied by saying that Sheikh Osama asked the brothers: 'Who will take it upon himself to deal with Ahmed [Shah] Massoud for me, because he harmed Allah and His sons?' A few brothers volunteered to assassinate Massoud and be rewarded by Allah, and you heard the good news.

Afterwards, the happy events took place in America [the September 11 attacks], the bastion of disbelief, and the Sheikh was so joyous he nearly floated on air. I called the Sheikh, and he told me he was in a meeting with the religious scholars of Al-Quseim, because a few of them had been a bit critical of the events that occurred in America. He told me about the discussions and about the meetings conducted with them, which persuaded them to support the Jihad and the Mujahideen…"

The biography ends with a description of the final period of Al-'Ayyiri's life, when he was being sought by Saudi authorities and was writing several online articles in support of Jihad.

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