13 Nov 2010

Islamist extremists fear educated girls, blow up hundreds of schools in Pakistan

Canada.com - AFP December 9, 2009

Taliban dynamite schools in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Taliban insurgents on Wednesday dynamited two schools in Pakistan's Khyber district, officials said, as a wave of attacks by Islamist fighters avenging military action gripped the nation.

The school attacks took place in Bara town, about 20 kilometres (13 miles) south of the northwestern capital Peshawar. Most of the buildings were reduced to rubble but no one was injured in the early morning blasts.

Pakistan is struggling with a fierce Taliban insurgency that has killed 72 people in bombings across the country in the past three days alone, as militants avenge multiple operations against them in the lawless northwest.

"Both main school buildings were completely destroyed," said Shafeerullah Wazir, the top administrative official of Khyber district, adding that only two classrooms remained standing in the two adjacent schools.

Islamist extremists opposed to co-education have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in the northwest of the country in recent years.

Wazir said that militants had buried large quantities of dynamite around the outer walls of the government-run high school and primary school.

"Both Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam people are involved in this act," he said.

Pakistani troops launched an offensive in Khyber district -- which straddles Peshawar and Afghanistan -- in September to try and flush out both the Taliban and home-grown militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam).

The military is engaged in offensives against Islamist fighters across much of the northwest, including the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

About 30,000 troops poured into South Waziristan in mid-October to try and dismantle strongholds of the Taliban leadership, enraging militants who have responded with a surge in bomb blasts and attacks.

In the eastern city of Lahore on Monday evening, two explosions occurred within seconds of each other, engulfing the popular Moon Market in flames. Police said Wednesday that suicide bombers were behind the attack.

"Now it has been confirmed that two suicide bombers carried out these attacks. We have made some arrests but as yet there is no major breakthrough," said Chaudhry Shafiq, a deputy police chief in Lahore.

He told AFP that the death toll from the blast in the nation's cultural capital had risen from 49 to 51, with about 140 people wounded.

Mazhar Ahmad, who heads the bomb disposal squad in Lahore, said ball bearings and grenades were found at the blast site, indicating that the two attackers were wearing suicide vests packed with explosives.

"The second blast was near an electricity pole causing an electric short circuit and triggering the fire," he told AFP.

The Lahore blasts followed a suicide bombing outside a court in Peshawar, which left 11 people dead.

Then on Tuesday, two suicide attackers firing rockets and guns drove up to the offices of Pakistan's main intelligence agency in the eastern city of Multan, detonating their car bomb and killing 10 people.

Security has deteriorated in Pakistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan sent hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaida militants flooding into the semi-autonomous tribal areas.

More than 2,680 people have been killed in militant attacks in Pakistan since July 2007, when the insurgency drastically intensified.

The U.S. government is urging Pakistan to do more to stamp out militant strongholds along its borderlands, saying fighters are crossing into Afghanistan and attacking foreign troops stationed there.

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