Taliban: Bamiyan Buddhas Destruction Continues Unabated
The destruction of two colossal Buddhist figures continued unabated on Sunday as an important delegation of key Islamic clerics headed for Afghanistan to try and save the ancient statues, Taliban officials told AFP.
"The work is in progress. It is heading to an end," senior Taliban spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmaen said.
Mutmaen on Saturday said "80 to 90 percent" of the Bamiyan Buddhas had already been destroyed. But the extent of the damage was impossible to confirm as the militia has blocked access of independent observers to the remote area.
The Taliban have said the huge figures, carved into sandstone cliffs in central Bamiyan city more than 1,500 years ago when Afghanistan was a seat of Buddhism, have been attacked with everything from tanks and rockets to dynamite.
The ruling militia's Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar issued a decree two weeks ago to demolish the statues, saying his decision was based on orders of God and the Islamic holy book of Quran.
As Omar ignored international protests and calls to reverse his decision, clerics from the prestigious Al-Azhar university, were on their way to Afghanistan to try and dissuade the fundamentalist militia from completely destroying the statues, said the agency.
The delegation includes Egypt's top religious leader, Mufti Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel.
He told reporters in Cairo on Saturday that "from a religious viewpoint it is clear -- these statues are part of the humanity's heritage and do not affect Islam at all."
Wassel was travelling along with a delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is currently headed by Qatar, AFP added.
The delegation includes Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmud, OIC official Ibrahim Bakr and two well-known Sunni clerics, Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi and Mohamed al-Rawi.
The Iranian News Agency (IRNA) said that Pakistan dispatched Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider to Kandahar on Saturday but he failed to persuade Mullah Omar to withdraw his edict.
"Mullah Omar stated that ... it was not possible for them to review the decision," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.
"From the discussions it became apparent that the process of destruction of statues including those at Bamiyan was initiated immediately after the issuance of the edict," he said.
Meanwhile, Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel left for Islamabad Sunday for talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who is currently visiting Pakistan, said IRNA.
Mutawakel said he would tell Annan that the statues destruction was "an internal religious issue" and was not aimed at "challenging" the world.
He also said he also wanted to discuss with Annan the current Afghan humanitarian crisis and the UN sanctions, slapped this year over Taliban's refusal to hand over indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden, said IRNA – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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