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Taliban chief firm on destroying Buddha statues
AFP (Kabul, March 5)

TALIBAN CHIEF Mulla Mohammad Omar used the Eid-al-Adha festival on Monday to urge the Muslim world to support the destruction of ancient Buddhist icons and unite behind his vision of Islam.

The reclusive war veteran and "Islamic scholar" said the annihilation of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan would proceed despite vehement international condemnation and protests from Islamic states.

He said the statues, including the giant ancient Buddhas in the central province of Bamiyan, were only "one per cent" of Afghanistan's historical heritage.

Omar also dismissed the global outcry as a "drama" which should be transparent to Muslims with "common sense."

"Now that we are destroying false idols, the world has made a drama out of this. The Muslims of the world, particularly Afghan Muslims, should use their common sense," the Taliban militia's radio Shariat quoted him as saying.

"I would like to ask you, do you prefer to be called statue-destroyers or statue-sellers?" Omar last week ordered his followers to destroy all statues in Afghanistan, including the country's precious pre-Islamic figures, to prevent idolatry in line with a fatwa (religious decree) from local clerics.

His comments at the start of the three-day Islamic holiday on Monday came a day after UNESCO special envoy Peirre Lafrance apparently failed to persuade the Afghan leadership to reverse their decision.


Updated: 5-3-2001

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