Mullah Muhammad Omar,
supreme leader of the Taliban, ordered the destruction of all statues in Afghanistan to prevent idol worship. Ancient stone Buddhas, dating back to the 3rd and 5th centuries, were among the artifacts demolished in March, despite international pleas to save the statues. He further incensed much of the world in September, when he defiantly refused to surrender to the U.S. Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Attacks on Afghanistan by U.S. and British forces followed in October.