25 Nov 2008

10 arrested in Taliban-ordered acid attack on Afghan schoolgirls

AFP - November 25, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Security forces have arrested 10 men suspected of involvement in a Taliban-ordered acid attack on schoolgirls in southern Afghanistan and some have confessed, authorities said Tuesday.
The 10 were Afghans who had each been promised 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,300 US) by Taliban rebels in Pakistan to carry out the Nov. 12 attack, deputy interior minister General Mohammad Daud told reporters.
Men on motorbikes used water pistols to spray acid into the faces of 15 girls and female teachers as they arrived at school in the southern city of Kandahar.

Most were given partial protection by their burqas, garments which cover the face and body, but one was seriously wounded in the face with some of the acid entering her eyes.
Daud said the men were all Afghans and had been arrested over several days. He did not say how many of them had confessed.
The men had been given orders by Taliban insurgents across the border in Pakistan, he said.
"They were led by Taliban...they were taking orders from the other side of the border from those who are leading terrorist attacks in Kandahar," he said.
Afghan officials say much of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan is plotted in extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Most of the four teachers and 11 schoolgirls caught in the attack were only slightly wounded because they were shielded by burqas, which most Afghan women wear in public.
Six of the girls were treated in hospital and the one who suffered the worst injuries, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, was transferred to a military hospital in Kabul.
All of them except Shamsia were back at school, an AFP reporter in Kandahar said.
The attack on the girls drew wide condemnation including from President Hamid Karzai and US First Lady Laura Bush who described it last week "cowardly and shameful".
A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said at the time that his group was not responsible.
The motive appeared to be to try to warn girls off going to school, something from which they were banned by the conservative Islamic Taliban regime that was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.
There were around 230 attacks on schools in Afghanistan from January to June this year, according to the United Nations.
About half of those attacks were on girls' schools even though they make up only 15 percent of schools in the country, said a report to the UN Security Council this month.
About 100 school staff and pupils had also been killed in the past year, the Afghan education ministry says. Insecurity linked to the insurgency has meanwhile forced 640 of the country's 11,000 schools to close.
About 35 per cent of the 6.2 million Afghan children in school this year are girls, the ministry says.
While a vast improvement from 2001 when only about one million children were in school, the total enrollment represents only about half the country's school-aged children.
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