- Despite Eid, Taliban dynamite
KABUL (March 8): Taliban officials said
dynamite was being used against Afghanistan's famous Bamiyan Buddhas despite the
Eid-uz-Zuha Islamic holiday and fresh international protests on Tuesday.
The Taliban's ambassador to neighbouring
Pakistan, one of only three countries which recognises the fundamentalist regime, told the
Afghan Islamic Press that dynamite had been employed to finally break up the Buddhas.
"The destruction begun on Sunday and
nearly one fourth of the two statues has been destroyed," ambassador Abdul Salam
Zaeef said, adding the work continued through the start of the holiday on Monday.
He said Tuesday that Taliban's supreme
leader Mulla Mohammad Omar had rejected a proposal to build a concrete wall in front of
the two Buddha status in central Bamiyan province.
"The statues will be destroyed in
compliance with the order ... and so far there is no proposal under consideration,"
Taliban officials have said militiamen
have been attacking the colossal stone 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 central Bamiyan province, where the two statues, including the largest standing
Buddha in the world, were hewn into a sandstone cliff more than 1,500 years ago.
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.
Ahmad Bahram, a spokesman for anti-Taliban
opposition group Hezb-e-Wahdat, confirmed only that the Bamiyan Bhuddas had been shelled.
"We have heard that they have fired a few shells at the statues but they have not yet
used dynamite," he said.
The US on Monday reiterated its appeal for
the Taliban to leave the statues alone for future generations, State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher said.
Contacts were made with the militia's
representatives in Pakistan but the Americans were quickly rebuffed, he said.
"Afghanistan's ancient statues are an
important part of the world's cultural legacy and the cultural heritage of
Afghanistan," he said.
France also said it was pressing on with
efforts to save the Buddhist heritage in Afghanistan. "We are maintaining close
contact with all those who are striving to prevent the destruction of Afghanistan's
pre-Islamic statues ... in particular with the countries that have official relations with
Kabul," the French foreign ministry said.
In mostly Buddhist Thailand, the
government on Tuesday said it "gravely condemns the acts of brutal vandalism and
strongly urges the Afghan leaders to immediately stop the destruction of cultural and
Diplomats in Pakistan have privately
indicated they do not believe the destruction is as extensive as the Taliban have said,
and a UNESCO special envoy late Monday insisted the Bamiyan Buddhas could still be saved.
"All doors are not closed. Continuing
and new consultations are taking place among theologians in Afghanistan," Pierre
Lafrance, dispatched on an emergency
mission from Europe on Friday, met top Taliban officials in Afghanistan Sunday and is
expected to return for further talks after Eid.
But Mulla Omar, in an Eid address Monday,
defended his edict and said the destruction of "false idols" was a matter of
pride for Afghans.