Taliban destroy statue of Shiite foe from 1990s, stoking fear over their rule

Posted at 3:05 AM, Aug 18, 2021

The Taliban have blown up the statue of a Shiite militia leader who had fought against them during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s.

The statue depicted a militia leader killed by the Taliban in 1996 when the Islamic militants seized power from rival warlords.

Abdul Ali Mazari was a champion of Afghanistan's ethnic Hazara minority, Shiites who were persecuted under the Sunni Taliban's earlier rule.

The statue stood in the central Bamyan province, where the Taliban infamously blew up two massive 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in 2001. At the time, the Taliban claimed the Buddhas violated Islam's prohibition on idolatry.

Since seizing power in the country over the weekend, the Taliban has promised a more tolerant rule. They say restrictive aspects of their past regime, like restrictions on women's rights, restrictions on entertainment, and public executions, are things of the past. They've also promised not to seek revenge against those who have opposed them in the past.

But in blowing up the statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, the Taliban has stoked the fears of those who were already skeptical of the group's new promises.

On Monday, thousands of Afghans raced to an airport in Kabul in an attempt to flee the country. They rushed onto a runway, and some attempted to grab onto the fuselage of an Air Force plane as it took off. Seven people died in the chaos.