Trouble: Mistaken For The Mullah

Mulvi Hafizullah is hiding in the remote Afghan countryside in fear of his life. The 40-year-old former Taliban protocol officer isn't worried about his ties to the regime. It's his resemblance to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar that scares him. Mullah Omar was rarely photographed during his time in power, and in a case of mistaken identity, Hafizullah says it's his picture--not Omar's--on the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that have been dropped all over Afghanistan offering $25 million for the capture of Omar and Osama bin Laden.

Hafizullah fears that thousands of Afghan soldiers and villagers--not to mention U.S. troops--are looking for him. "I'm afraid to leave my house," he told NEWSWEEK. "If I do, soldiers or villagers will tear me to pieces so they can claim the money." His troubles began early this year when he fled to his village in Maidan province after the Taliban's collapse. An elderly neighbor approached him, showed him the leaflet and asked if he was in fact Mullah Omar. "I looked at the photo and it was me," says Hafizullah. "Now we are even more proud to know you," the old man told him. Brushing aside Hafizullah's denials, the man complained that, as mullah, he should be doing more to help the village. Within days, Hafizullah went back into hiding. Now he whiles the days away tending a few apple trees and grape vines near his hideout. He says his family is unhappy living so far from home--and his 5-year-old son still thinks he's Mullah Omar.