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Afghan Buddhas almost destroyed: Taliban

KABUL (March 10): The two ancient Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan have been almost completely destroyed despite protests from the international community, a Taliban official said Saturday.

"I have said that the work is closing to its end. They are 80 to 90 percent destroyed," said Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmaen, speaking from the southern Taliban bastion of Kandahar.

Mutmaen told AFP that the Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider who travelled to Kandahar Saturday also failed to persuade the Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar to scrap his decree ordering the total destruction of all statues in the country.

"After he told us of his government's concerns and proposals, we reaffirmed to him that this was an internal religious issue without any room for a delay in the decree's implementation," he said.

The damage inflicted to the two 1,500 years old giant Buddhas is impossible to confirm as the militia has refused observers access to the area.

Taliban Foreign Minister Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel had earlier confirmed that the religious militia soldiers had resumed blasting the two colossal Buddha statues after a break for a religious holiday.

Late Friday, Mutmaen told reporters almost a quarter of the Bamiyan statues had been destroyed.

Mutawakel is expected to meet the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Pakistan on Sunday to explain the Islamic regime's destruction of ancient statues.

Annan is due to arrive in Islamabad late Saturday at the start of a whirwind tour of South Asia to discuss the core issue of Kashmir and nuclear non-proliferation.


Updated: 10-3-2001

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