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Powell assails Taliban's act

WASHINGTON (March 8): Secretary of State Colin Powell has deplored the Taliban leadership for committing a crime against humanity by ordering the destruction of ancient statues in Afghanistan, including the two giant Buddhas. ``It's horrible, it's a tragedy, it's a crime against humankind, and I deplore it," he said, adding he was trying to find out whether the Buddha statues build 2,000 years ago were completely destroyed.

``I don't know the extent of damage at this time. I simply haven't been briefed in the course of the morning because I've been in other meetings, and so I don't know whether the two major Buddhas have now been taken down totally," he told the media Tuesday. "So we'll get the information out to you (newsmen) as soon as we can."

Meanwhile, Taliban's Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef said in Islamabad that parts of the massive statues -- the larger of the two believed to be the world's tallest standing Buddha -- had been destroyed and demolition would resume after Eid. ``We don't know how long it will take to destroy them, but they will be eliminated," Zaeef was reported as saying. The destruction of the statues was order by Taliban Mullah Mohammed Omar as part of the destruction of all pre-Islamic statues in the country, including the two towering Buddhas hewn from a cliff face in Bamiyan near the Afghan Capital Kabul.

"I am being told from Kabul that they are using mainly explosives because the statues are very strong,. We do not want to spend more money or resources to destroy them. That's why we are using explosives," Zaeef said.

He said the troops had demolished 25 percent of the two Buddhas. Taliban's Information and Culture Minister Qatradullah Jamal had said earlier the legs and feet had already been destroyed.


Updated: 8-3-2001

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