â€œWe consider this our duty – to defend humanity against the scourge of intolerance, violence, and fanaticism.â€
– Ahmed Shah Massoud
Ahmed Shah Massoud was a Kabul University engineering student turned military leader who played a leading role in driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, earning him the name “Lion of Panjshir”.
A Sunni Muslim who reportedly always carried a book of Sufi mystic Ghazali with him, he strongly rejected the interpretations of Islam followed by the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the Saudi establishment.
Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan the Wall Street Journal named Massoud “the Afghan who won the Cold War”.
After the collapse of the communist Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah in 1992, Massoud became the Minister of Defense under the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Following the rise of the Taliban in 1996, Massoud returned to the role of an armed opposition leader, serving as the military commander and political leader of the United Islamic Front (also known in the West as Northern Alliance).
On September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11 attacks in the United States, Massoud was assassinated in Takhar Province of Afghanistan by two suspected Arab al-Qaeda suicide bombers posing as journalists.
The following year, he was named “National Hero” by the order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.