PARIS, March 1 (UPI) -- The United Nations marked the 10th anniversary of the Taliban destruction of the 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan with a special appeal.
Irina Bokova, director general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, appealed for the protection of the world's heritage of humanity sites from damage, turmoil and theft.
Ten years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, the Islamic militants' leader ordered the destruction of the two enormous statues of Buddha on the face of a sandstone cliff in Afghanistan's Bamiyan region, carved by traveling Buddhist monks from neighboring countries.
"The two monumental statues had stood for 1 1/2 millennia as proud testimonies to the greatness of our shared humanity," Bokova said in a statement carried by U.N. News.
"They were destroyed in the context of the conflict devastating Afghanistan and to undermine the power of culture as a cohesive force for the Afghan people."
Bokova said UNESCO and the world "watched helplessly" as Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered tanks and artillery to bombard and dynamite the huge statues.
"Since then, we have witnessed other instances where cultural heritage has fallen prey to conflict, political turmoil and misappropriation," she said.
The report said U.N. experts will maintain research and preservation at the site, depicting the rich Gandhara school of Buddhist art that integrated different cultural influences from East and West during the 1st to 13th centuries.
The Press Trust of India reported researchers from Germany's Technische Universitaet Muenchen have found prior to the advent of Islam in Afghanistan, the Bamiyan Buddhas were once intensely colorful and over-painted several times.
The researchers examined hundreds of fragments of the destroyed statues.