UNESCO Takes on the Taliban, The Fight to Save the Buddhas at Bamiyan
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In early March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the two giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan under direction from Mullah Muhammed Omar. The Buddha statues, constructed fourteen centuries ago, were the largest Buddhist statues in the world. In September of 2000—less than a year before the destruction—Mullah Omar ordered the same statues protected due to their importance as significant artifacts of Afghan cultural heritage and also because they were a source of income for the country's tourism industry. However, on February 26, 2001 Mullah Omar reversed his declaration of preservation and sentenced the religious statues to destruction "so that no one can worship or respect them in the future." The Taliban's team, along with Pakistani and Arab engineers, drilled holes into the two statues and detonated explosives including dynamite and anti-aircraft weapons.