Taliban Mullah Feeds Off Anti-U.S. Anger

Islamabad, Pakistan -- The compound is large and rambling with a mosque, a girl's school, some rundown buildings and a rabbit warren of winding alleys. Bearded men in traditional Pakistani dress lounge around on rugs and cushions. They offer faint smiles and gentle, limp handshakes.

Here the leafy charm of Pakistan's capital Islamabad falls away. This is a dusty, harder place.

Two men armed with assault rifles meet me at the gate. They're highly trained Pakistani police posted here to watch the man I'm coming to meet.

He's branded a terrorist, and in 2007 was jailed for leading his followers at Islamabad's radical Red Mosque into a bloody shootout with Pakistani commandos.

Mullah Abdul Aziz is still equally revered and feared. But the man I meet is disarmingly gentle and welcoming. He is small, with the customary beard and white turban of Islamic clerics.

Mullah Aziz likes to call himself a man of peace; a simple teacher. In an unusual posture for a hard-line Islamic cleric, he strongly supports girls' education.

He shows me around his school, inside girls' heads and faces are covered, the curtains are drawn to stop us filming. There are 80 of these schools around Pakistan, Mullah Aziz proudly boasts.

"I am called a terrorist, but travel across the country, ask anyone. They love us". He tells me.

The mullah's charm never falters. He invites us for lunch: a simple meal of chicken and rice. The longer I am with him the more open and relaxed he becomes.

But it's here his words betray him. He scarcely seems to notice our camera as he reveals the steel behind the smile.

This 'simple teacher' proclaims allegiance to the Taliban and calls Mullah Omar, the militant Islamic group's leader, a freedom fighter.

He says suicide bombing is justified if ordered by a Muslim cleric. And he reveres slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden: his death he holds sacred.
CNN