Ahmad Shah Massoud (1953-2001) was a Tajik resistance leader who fought first against the Soviets and then against the Taliban. He was assassinated two days before the attacks on New York and Washington, and some have suggested the two events were related. His assassins were Tunisian suicide bombers claiming to be Belgian reporters. Whilst interviewing Massoud, they set off a bomb in their camera. It is believed they were Al-Qaeda operatives.
Massoud earned his nickname, the Lion of Panjshir, for his part in forcing the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. Panjshir Province lies in the northwest of the country. In 1992, he was made Defence Minister, but when the Taliban came to power he took up command of the Northern Alliance opposing them.
After his death, Massoud was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and was declared Hero of the Afghan Nation by Hamid Karzai.
Bala Hissar means "high fortress". It was constructed in the 5th century AD, and became the seat of power for Kabul's rulers for much of the subsequent period. From 1839, the British Army used it as a barracks, until forced to retreat. It was severely damaged during the second Anglo-Afghan War when a British armoury exploded within its walls.
The Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice jailed men who trimmed their beards for up to ten days. Teams of religious police patrolled in Japanese trucks, armed with AK-47 rifles and leather whips. Anyone caught missing prayers would be beaten until they bled.