Mullah Mohammad Omar Little is known of Mullah Mohammad Omar, 32, who launched the Taleban movement of religious students in 1994. Just two years later, on September 27, the Taleban conquered the capital Kabul to crown a drive that swept aside most warring factions. Omar was born in the central province of Uruzgan and studied in several Islamic madrassahs, or schools, before joining the Jihad (holy) war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. He rose to deputy chief commander in the guerrilla party Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami of Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi during the war, in which he was wounded and lost one eye. In April 1996, an assembly of about 1,000 Moslem clergymen chose him as Islamic ``Amir-ul-Momineen'' (commander of the faithful), denouncing President Burhanuddin Rabbani as unfit to lead an Islamic nation. Omar, whose headquarters is in the southern town of Kandahar, is assisted by a council of religious scholars.
Burhanuddin Rabbani The ousted Afghan president leads the Jamiat-i-Islami party, which was probably the largest of the factions which fought against Soviet occupation. An ethnic Tajik from the mountainous northeastern province of Badakhshan and a former professor of Islamic law at Kabul university, he became president in late 1992 for an interim period but extended his term and antagonised most other parties.
Ahmad Shah Masood ** For Detailed Biography click HERE ** A former defence minister and Rabbani's top military commander, known as the ``Lion of Panjsher'' for his exploits against Soviet forces from his Panjsher Valley home. He played a key role in the guerrilla takeover in April 1992 by moving his forces into Kabul after striking an alliance with former pro-government commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Masood won a worldwide reputation as the most effective Afghan guerrilla commander. He was the main strength behind Rabbani's government but retreated to Panjsher as Kabul fell.
General Abdul Rashid Dostum he formerly pro-communist Uzbek chief played a key role in the collapse of the communist government in 1992 by switching sides. He leads the Jumbish-i-Milli movement based in northern Afghanistan. With his own army and a small air force, he controls at least six northern provinces. He joined then prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in January 1994 in an unsuccessful bid to topple Rabbani, who was backed by Masood's forces. He remained neutral in the fighting between the Taleban and the Kabul government, though separately he opposed Rabbani. In September, he struck an informal truce with Rabbani to allow transport from Kabul to move north via the Salang Tunnel.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar ** For Detailed Biography click HERE ** The 45-year-old ousted prime minister leads the Hezb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar), once the most disciplined of the guerrilla groups that fought against Soviet occupation. A dynamic and outspoken radical from the northern province of Kunduz, Hekmatyar became involved in Islamic politics at Kabul University's engineering faculty in 1968. He was jailed for 18 months under then king Zahir Shah and then fought against President Mohammad Daoud's republican government before fleeing into exile in Pakistan in 1974. Hekmatyar was prime minister from March 1993 until January 1994, when he allied himself with Dostum in the failed coup to oust Rabbani. He was appointed to the same position last June under a peace pact with Rabbani that was opposed by Dostum.
Younus Khalis The 74-year-old ``Maulvi'' (religious scholar) and Pashtu poet from the eastern province of Nangharhar leads his own Hezb-i-Islami (Khalis) faction which he formed after fleeing to Pakistan in 1975 and splitting with Hekmatyar. Sporting a distinctive beard dyed orange with henna, he is a hardliner and last week declared support for the Taleban.
Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf The former professor of Islamic law at Kabul University leads Ittehad- i-Islami and is a Rabbani ally. Sayyaf, a fluent Arabic speaker known for his close contacts with Saudi Arabia during the war against the Soviet forces, worked for the Islamic movement under Zahir Shah and Daoud. He was arrested during the communist takeover of 1978 despite being a relative of Hafizullah Amin, the communist party leader killed during the Soviet intervention next year. Most analysts consider Ittehad one of the weaker parties, because of its dependence on aid from Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi The elderly ``Maulvi'' and former member of parliament heads Harakat-i- Inqilab-i-Islami. It became the largest faction in the first year of the Soviet intervention because of his influence among conservative clergy. He took no sides between Rabbani and his opponents.
Sibghatullah Mojadidi The 70-year-old scion of one of Afghanistan's leading religio-aristocratic families leads the Jabha-i-Nijat-i-Milli. He was the first interim Islamic president of Afghanistan for six months after the guerrillas seized power from the collapsed communist government in April 1992. His family has close ties with ex-king Zahir Shah and has campaigned for his return.
Syed Ahmad Gailani The most Westernised of the Afghan party leaders heads Mahaz-i-Milli-i- Islami and has played a leading role in trying to mobilise support for a return of Zahir Shah. He also belongs to one of Afghanistan's aristocratic families and has been neutral in the current factional fighting. Karim Khalili: Leads the the minority Shi'ite Hezb-i-Wahdat faction based in the central province of Bamiyan.