Two days before 9/11, a group of al-Qaeda suicide bombers posing as journalists sat down for an interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the last major resistance to the jihadi group’s Taliban allies in northern Afghanistan. There were commanders.
Before he could answer a question, he detonated the explosives, which investigators later said he was cleverly disguised in his camera equipment.
Karshamati Masood, better known as Sher Panjshir after his native valley, made a name for himself as a brilliant guerrilla commander who pushed back Soviet forces during the 1980s.
Until the late 1990s, he was fighting the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.
They both wanted him to leave.
This horrific hit was ordered by Osama bin Laden himself.
The assassins pretended to make a documentary, and saved Masood’s interview by presenting a fabricated story printed on a letterhead from an Islamic center in the UK. They stole Belgian passports for travel.
Then he hit a wall – Masood was too busy to sit with him when he arrived at his base in Khawaja Bahauddin village in August 2001.
“He spent 10 days with us calmly and patiently, and never insisted on an unnecessary interview,” Fahim Dashti, a journalist and close aide to Masood, told AFP a few weeks after the assassination.
Dashti was setting up his camera to record the interview as two al-Qaeda operatives posed their questions in Arabic to the commander’s close aide, Masood Khalili, for translation.
“Especially because he asked questions about bin Laden,” Khalili told AFP in October 2001.
“The cameraman had a dirty smile,” he said. The ‘journalist’ was very calm.
As soon as Masood heard the translation, the explosives went off.
‘Your leader is dead’
The assassination sent shockwaves through Afghanistan and around the world.
Massoud was seen as the last great hope of anti-Taliban Afghans at the time, and was seen by Western governments as a powerful ally against even more hardline Islamists.
His Northern Alliance resistance is already on the back foot against the Taliban, with his comrades hiding his death for days.
A week after his assassination, Massoud was buried in his home district of Bazarak – in the colors of the khaki Afghan flag and in a funeral procession with thousands of followers.
A marble tomb was built with a large number of devotees.
“When (Masood) was killed, I was in Panjshir. Resistance forces were surrounded on all sides,” a 47-year-old resident of the area told AFP on Monday, requesting anonymity due to security concerns.
“The Taliban announced on the radio that your leader was dead and your job was done.
The tables changed within weeks as the United States invaded Afghanistan to punish the Taliban for harboring the 9/11 perpetrators.
By the end of 2001, the Taliban government had been overthrown by US bombers led by Northern Alliance fighters.
Al Qaeda was fleeing in the hope of gaining the upper hand with its two major attacks against the United States and in Afghanistan.
Reducing its 20-year insurgency with the August 15 occupation of Kabul, the Taliban began the last US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan this year.
Once again, the main opposition emerged in Panjshir – led by Ahmed Masood, who was 12 when al-Qaeda assassinated his father.
But the Taliban quickly sent fighters to encircle the area, finally claiming on Monday that they had captured Panjshir.
Among the insurgents killed in the fierce fighting was Faheem Dashti, who survived the Masood bombing 20 years ago.
A Taliban account posted a picture of militants in Panjshir standing in front of a torn Ahmad Shah Massoud poster.
Ahmed Wali Massoud’s brother, Ahmed Wali, said in Geneva on Tuesday that while his national resistance front was “wounded”, thousands of fighters could return at any time.
This is a difficult scenario for Muhammad Sana Safa, 63, who worked with Massoud in the 1980s when the Soviet Union carried out daily attacks.
“Ahmed Masood is a young, patriotic man, but he has no military experience like his father,” Safa said on Monday.
“If (his father) were alive today, we wouldn’t see this …