Taliban destroy statue of Shiite military leader

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The Taliban blew up a statue of a Shiite military leader who fought against the militant group during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, photos circulating on Wednesday show, according to AP.

Why it matters: The destruction of the statue of Abdul Ali Mazari is a reminder of the destruction of 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha in 2001, when the Taliban previously ruled and strictly limited women's and other human rights.

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Driving the news: Mazari was a leader of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, Shiites who were persecuted under the Taliban’s earlier rule. He was killed by the Taliban in 1996, per AP.

  • The statue was located in the central Bamyan province, the same area where the Taliban destroyed statues of Buddha carved into a mountain in 2001.

  • The Taliban claimed the Buddhas violated Islam’s prohibition on idolatry, AP notes.

The big picture: The Taliban's takeover has renewed fears that they will return to the brutal grip they ruled with in the 1990s, when women's freedoms were severely restricted, other human rights were limited and executions were carried out in public.

  • The Taliban insists they have changed, but will still rule Afghanistan within the norms of Islamic law.

  • Many Afghans remain skeptical, with thousands flocking to the international airport in Kabul in hopes of fleeing the country.

  • In the eastern city of Jalalabad, dozens of people protested against the Taliban on Wednesday by raising an Afghan national flag in a rare show of dissent, per AP.

Go deeper: Taliban vow to honor women's rights, but within "cultural frameworks"

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