Using OSINT to uncover the location of Mullah Omar’s grave
In early November, Taliban senior figures gathered to unveil the burial place of the group’s founder and first emir, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Until now, his burial place remained undisclosed for security reasons. Using open-source techniques, AW geolocated the grave’s exact location.
29 Nov 2022
On November 6, 2022, a significant number of Taliban senior figures gathered in the Suray district of Zabul province to reveal the burial place of the group’s founder and first emir, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Omar allegedly died in 2013 due to health problems. Until now, his burial place remained undisclosed for security reasons.
According to a video report by the Taliban’s state-run broadcaster, RTA Pashto, the grave is located in the Suray district, southwest of Zabul’s capital Qalat. Using several Pashto and English search queries on Google, Youtube and Twitter, AW investigators collected a video of a Youtube user’s journey to the location of Omar’s grave, an image, and a news article, which were used to uncover the exact location.
Identifying Omar’s home town and general area of grave
The video shared on Youtube, showing the journey to the grave of Mullah Omar, was used to narrow down the approximate area, identify the district, geolocate Omar’s home town and hone in on the burial site.
The video starts off with a scene showing the vehicle driving in a larger town. Using geolocation, AW investigators identified the town to be Qalāt-e Ġilzay, which narrowed down the search area for Omar's grave.
The video then shows the vehicle entering the ‘Suray district’. The gate was located to the outskirts of Qalāt-e Ġilzay in Shinkay district, which narrowed down the search area.
Later on in the video, the vehicle enters the village of ‘Umar Zee’ which was the hometown of Mullah Omar. Based on the above workings used to narrow down the approximate area in which the grave and hometown of Omar could be located, AW investigators used the Humanitarian Response reference map to identify a village named ‘Umar Zayi’ in the approximate search area.
AW investigators then identified the village of Umar Zayi in the Shinkay district of Zabul Province using satellite imagery, where Omar allegedly hid in Abdul Jabbar Omari’s house prior to his death.
After identifying the hometown of Mullah Omar, AW investigators analysed the remainder of the Youtube footage to uncover clues about the location of the grave.
Identifying the exact location
Using a scene from the Youtube video and Google Earth, an approximate location for the grave was identified several kilometers West of Umar Zayi village.
From this point, information from a news article - which indicated a new road had been paved towards the grave - was combined with satellite imagery and used to identify the location of Omar's grave.
An on the ground image could then be used to verify the site that was identified above via satellite imagery.
Using several research and open source techniques, AW investigators were able to identify the location of Mullah Omar’s grave, which was previously hidden from the public eye.