Tuesday, October 17, 2006

IRIN Report: School torched in Badakhshan, Afghanistan

BADAKHSHAN, 16 October (IRIN) - Unidentified gunmen set fire to a large high school in the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Saturday night, local officials said on Sunday.

"Last night a number of gunmen entered Hazrat Khalid school in Zebak district, tied up two guards and then set fire to the school building," Abdul Mohammad Fateh, head of Badakhshan education department, said.

"Nearly 80 percent of the building has been torched. They also set fire to all equipment, including books and note books and even cans of dry milk," Fateh maintained.

According to Fateh, some 800 boys and girls used to study in Khalid school.

Local security officials said so far no one has been arrested in connection with the incident.

Mohmmad Sadiq Fatman, deputy education minister, blamed the attack on "the enemies of Afghanistan" - a reference to the hardline Taliban militants who were toppled by the US-led coalition in 2001. The militant group closed down all girls' schools and banned women from work in governmental institutions during their five years in power.

"They are the enemies of development of our country and are trying to keep our people in darkness and ignorance and then exploit them for their brutal aims," Fatman asserted.

A primary school building was also damaged on Saturday when it came under rocket attack in Sarkh district of the southeastern Logar province, local officials have said.

Schools and educational institutions are a common target for resurgent Taliban guerrillas who are fighting against the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai. They operate mainly in the south and east of Afghanistan.

Attacks like these are growing in frequency. Some 150 schools have been torched during 2006 alone, while more than 200,000 students are staying away from schools due to fear of more attacks, according to officials from the Ministry of Education in Kabul.

Earlier this month, local education ministry officials in southern Afghanistan told IRIN that some 330 mixed schools had been closed in the provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, and Helmand alone, due to fear of attacks and threats from Taliban militants.

In August, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that attacks on schools in the south and southeastern regions were spreading to other parts of Afghanistan and called for stricter measures to ensure the safety of teachers and students.

Six school children have died as a result of insurgency-related violence this year.


This report also available here.



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