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Afghans Reopen Herat Road, Despite Threat To Heritage Site

The road in front of the minarets in Herat has been reopened.

The road in front of the minarets in Herat has been reopened.

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Hundreds of Afghans reopened a road that had been shut this year to protect a 15th-century heritage site nearby after a promised alternate route was not provided, an official has said.

The Musallah complex in the historic city of Herat was built during the Timurid empire founded by the legendary conqueror Tamerlane and today consists of six minarets and two domed chambers.

A century ago, more than a dozen minarets stood but most have toppled during decades of war and neglect. This year the road passing by the minarets was shut because traffic vibrations threatened their foundations.

"The central government promised to build an alternative road for the traffic but they failed," provincial Governor Sayed Hussain Anwari told Reuters.

"The residents had to reopen the road because it was creating a huge traffic jam for them everyday," he said

Hundreds of people gathered near the road, removed the barriers, and began driving through.

The Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul issued a statement condemning the reopening.

"The Ministry of Information and Culture strongly condemns this act and asks for the help of the noble people of Herat and the Interior Ministry and other local administrations and provincial officials to close this road promptly," it said.

Five of the camel-colored, mud-brick minarets tower more than 30 meters above the ground and were once sheathed in sparkling blue, green, black, and white mosaic tiles. Only the stump of a sixth minaret remains.

Herat is an ancient city with many historic sites including a citadel built by Alexander the Great.