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Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on Monday. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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"

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - World

WHO, UNICEF to launch polio vaccine drive in Afghanistan

Afghan boys return to their homes after attending school in Chashma Dozak area of Badghis province on Oct. 16. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will launch a house-to-house vaccination campaign to inoculate children in Afghanistan against polio, the UN announced Monday.

Why it matters: The campaign, which begins Nov. 8 with the Taliban's backing, is the first such vaccine drive in over three years to reach all Afghan children, the press release noted.

3 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."