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Buddhas fall to Taliban savagery
Agencies (Kabul, March 4)

WHAT CHANGEZ Khan and his band of marauders couldn't do with mortar in the 13th century, the Taliban managed using new-age technology in the 21st century. According to the first eyewitness account from the area on Sunday, anti-aircraft weapons were used to bring down the Bamiyan Buddhas.

"I could see the Taliban soldiers firing anti-aircraft weapons at the two statues. That was three days ago," said Safdar Ali, a resident.

The news of the destruction was confirmed by the Taliban while ruling out any hope of the preservation of the statues ahead of talks with UN special envoy Pierre Lafrance who arrived in Kandahar on Sunday and began meetings with officials, including the Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil.

Dismissing any possibility of dialogue on the issue, the Foreign Minister said, "The edict (of Taliban's supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar) will be implemented inshallah (God willing)… we would like to tell the Unesco envoy that what we are doing is an internal issue and we do not want to confront the world."

Meanwhile, other statues throughout the country were also being demolished with rockets, tanks and explosives, ridding the nation of the reminders of its pre-Islamic past. Residents of central Bamiyan, where the two ancient statues of Buddha hewn from a cliff face in the third and fifth centuries are located, said Taliban soldiers began attacking the statues at least three days earlier.

Minister of Information and Culture Mawlawi Qudratullah Jamal said while action against the statues had nothing to do with the regime's craving for international recognition, the UN would have more influence in Kandahar if it did not recognise the ousted government.

However, Lafrance said yesterday that there was still a "faint glimpse of hope" that the some statues could be saved. In this regard, he cited conflicting reports from the Taliban officials about the extent of destruction.

Elsewhere, Buddhism's most prominent leader, the Dalai Lama, said he was "deeply concerned" about the Taliban's attempts to erase Afghanistan's pre-Islamic history.

The G-8 countries also expressed "dismay and shock" at the destruction.

Meanwhile, journalists have been barred from visiting the Kabul Museum and Bamiyan province.


Updated: 4-3-2001

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