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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 14:54 GMT
Bamiyan destroyed by Taleban
Ethnic Hazara refugees from Bamiyan
Hundreds were reportedly killed by the Taleban
The BBC has confirmed that the central Afghan town of Bamiyan was totally destroyed by the Taleban before they fled over the weekend.

Buddha statues in Bamiyan
The statues were priceless pieces of Buddhist heritage

Evidence has also emerged of Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing in the region involving the execution of hundreds of local ethnic Hazara men.

BBC correspondent David Loyn reached Bamiyan on Tuesday, becoming the first journalist to witness the devastation.

The Taleban caused international outrage earlier this year by destroying two priceless Buddha statues in Bamiyan in an act of wanton desecration.

But it is now not just the ancient treasures that have disappeared.

Ethnic cleansing

Our correspondent said every building, shop and house had been destroyed before the town fell on Sunday after a two-hour gun battle.

Bamiyan finally fell to ethnic Hazara fighters of the Hezb-i-Wahdat faction, who regard Bamiyan as their capital.

Where the statues once stood
They can never be replaced

Not just in Bamiyan but around the region, it was clear that the Hazaras had suffered horribly at the hands of the Taleban.

Bazaars had been torched in town after town and there have been reports of Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing involving the execution of hundreds of local men.

The Hezb-i-Wahdat was driven out of Bamiyan by the Taleban in 1998.

The city hit the world's headlines in March, when the destruction of the two giant statues provoked widespread international condemnation and criticism from Muslim leaders around the world.

The Taleban dynamited the monuments, carved into the Hindu Kush mountains, claiming that all statues were false idols and contrary to their Islamic beliefs.

The BBC's David Loyn in Bamiyan
"The Taleban took out Bamiyan's heart"
See also:

04 Mar 01 | South Asia
UN 'fails' to save Afghan statues
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