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Taliban blow head off larger Buddha statue

(Islamabad, March 9): THE TALIBAN Islamic militia today blew the head off the larger of the two ancient colossal Buddha statues in central Bamiyan province, a report said.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted unnnamed sources as saying the ruling militia used "explosives" to destroy the head on the 50-metre tall statue, the largest standing Buddha in the world.

Carved into a sandstone mountain near the provincial capital between the second and fifth centuries AD, the two figures are considered masterpieces of Buddhist art.

Local Taliban commanders destroyed the head on the smaller statue, some 34.5 metres tall, in 1998, shortly after they captured the province from opposition forces.

Taliban officials have said militiamen have been attacking the Buddhas with rockets, tanks, gunpowder and tools such as spades and hammers, although the extent of the damage is impossible to verify.

Observers have been refused permission to go to Bamiyan.

The Taliban militia, which rules most of Afghanistan under a puritanical version of Islamic law, last week ordered the annihilation of all statues to prevent idolatry, sparking an international outcry.


Updated: 9-3-2001

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