- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban soldiers smashed hundreds of bottles of alcohol that had survived years of radical Islamic rule hidden behind a false wall in the basement of the capital's only major hotel.
Turbaned troops pushed each other to get at the estimated 500 bottles of liquor yesterday, each wanting to throw a bottle on the rocks behind the hotel.
"This is against Islam," said the troops with the Taliban's religious police, which enforces its strict Islamic edicts.
The inventory of bottles had been hidden in the basement of the hotel in 1992, when the pro-Moscow regime was overthrown by Islamic insurgents led by ousted defense chief Ahmed Shah Massood.
The Islamic groups banned alcohol, but they apparently did not find the hidden storeroom.
When the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, they demolished any alcohol they found, banned most forms of entertainment, set fire to movie theaters and strung cassette tapes from poles throughout the city.
Hotel managers, who didn't want to identify themselves by name, earlier said that a false wall had been constructed to protect the alcohol.
The Taliban now rules about 95 percent of Afghanistan, where it has imposed its brand of Islam, a literal interpretation of the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
Meanwhile, Western diplomats held talks with Taliban officials yesterday and said they expect to meet a second time with two American women and six other foreigners jailed in Afghanistan on charges of preaching Christianity.
The diplomats from the United States, Germany and Australia — along with parents of the two Americans — met with the detained aid workers Monday for the first time since their arrests.

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