"By CARLOTTA GALL|
Published: December 6, 2006
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — The empty niches that once held Bamiyan’s colossal Buddhas now gape in the rock face — a silent cry at the terrible destruction wrought on this fabled valley and its 1,500-year-old treasures, once the largest standing Buddha statues in the world.
The western Buddha as it stood from A.D. 554 until March 2001, when it was destroyed by the Taliban. At 180 feet, it was the larger of the two.
It was in March 2001, when the Taliban and their sponsors in Al Qaeda were at the zenith of their power in Afghanistan, that militiamen, acting on an edict to take down the “gods of the infidels,” laid explosives at the base and the shoulders of the two Buddhas and blew them to pieces. To the outraged outside world, the act encapsulated the horrors of the Islamic fundamentalist government. Even Genghis Khan, who laid waste to this valley’s towns and population in the 13th century, had left the Buddhas standing."
NY Times, December 6, 2006