The leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime has shrugged off criticism of his order for all statues in the country to be smashed, saying the decree was an Islamic act. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted Mullah Muhammad Omar - supreme leader of the radical Taliban movement - as saying that keeping statues was a sin and illegal. "I don't care about anything else but Islam," he said in an interview. The Taliban on Monday ordered all statues in the country to be smashed, putting a question mark over the fate of ancient and world-renowned Buddhist monuments in the war-ravaged country. "All statues remaining in various parts of the country must be broken ... they represent gods of infidels," the order is quoted by Reuters as saying. It drew immediate criticism from the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO. "Situated at a crossroads of the ancient Silk Routes, Afghanistan enjoys a unique cultural heritage marked by multiple influences from Persia, Greece, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam," the agency said. "This ancient heritage has suffered cruelly under the conflicts and disasters that have shaken the country recently." Archaeologists have expressed concern for Afghanistan's best-known archaeological site - two giant Buddhas hewn from cliffs in the central town of Bamiyan that date from before the arrival of Islam in the ninth century. Mr. Omar said those who thought destroying statues was a loss for Afghanistan's history should study Islam, which he said prohibits the preservation of statues.