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More Evidence Emerges of Demise of Bamiyan BuddhasAired March 18, 2001 - 4:08 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement says that it might soon allow journalist to inspect the rubble of two giant statues of Buddha that it's been working to destroy. The Taleban have been guarding the site, trying to keep away outsiders. Even so, CNN has obtained an exclusive videotape showing the latest destruction, and for that, we turn to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Evidence of the destruction of the 1,500-year-old giant Buddhas of Afghanistan has been emerging piece by piece. These are the latest images showing the result of the demolition by Afghanistan's ruling Taleban militia.
The legs have been blown off both the massive statues that were carved from the cliffs of Bamiyan, about 70 kilometers away from the capital Kabul. They had survived the ravages of Ghenghis Khan, centuries of invasions and wars, and natural erosion by the elements. But the Taleban says it will fully destroy them.
Since the order to demolish them last month, high-profile delegates have tried to reason with the Taleban, pleading with them not destroy what forms part of whole world's cultural heritage. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a special trip to the Taleban's foreign minister, but was publicly rebuffed.
Indeed, despite the international outcry, the Taleban says the destruction of the statues and many other artifacts is no one's business but their own; that they are quote: "Only destroying stones, and that the world's reaction has been exaggerated."
But their claim that the giant Buddhas, which predate Islam, are idolatrous and thus violate a sacred tenet of the Muslim faith has been roundly denied and criticized by most Islamic leaders and experts around the world. A senior...
AMANPOUR: ... to save the Buddhas, pointing out that Islam preaches tolerance.
Apart from these images, independent experts and observers have so far been banned from Bamiyan, making it impossible to accurately verify the full extent of the destruction or the Taleban's plans. Only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taleban, and their relations with most of the world are bad. They have become worse since sanctions were imposed in January in order to pressure the Taleban to extradite Osama bin Laden, accused by the United States of orchestrating terrorist attacks against American targets.
The demolition order comes at a time when more than a million Afghanis are experiencing freezing winter temperatures and severe hunger. Tens of thousands have gathered in camps around the country while international aid workers beg for help for a world they say is suffering from donor fatigue. The U.N. secretary-general warned that the Taleban's destruction of its cultural heritage will further anger donor countries and harm any attempt to rescue the desperate people who some say are in danger of starving to death.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN.
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