Ten arrested for acid attacks

Peter Gibson 27 November 2008

Ten men have been arrested for their complicity in attacks which involved throwing acid in the faces of Afghan schoolgirls.

The names of the men have not yet been disclosed, though a government spokesman has said that four have so far confessed to being involved in the attacks.

Two men used a water pistol to spray battery acid at 11 students and four female teachers outside Mirwais Nika Girls’ High School in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

Deputy Interior Minister Gen¬eral Mohammad Daud told reporters in Kabul:

“Evidence shows and witnesses say were threatened a week before not to go to school.”

Kandahar schoolgirls are easily identifiable by their distinctive uniforms. The attackers were on motor¬bikes and fled while passers-by rushed to help their victims. Some of the girls were afforded a degree of protection by their burkas, but most suffered serious burns. Six are currently being treated in hospital and at least one will have to receive plastic surgery to reconstruct her face and neck. Sixteen-year-old student Late¬fa told Al Jazeera:

“”We were on the way to school when two men on motorbikes stopped next to us. One of them threw acid on my sister’s face. I tried to help her and then they threw acid on me too.”

Al Jazeera reporter David Chat¬er said that Latefa is ‘determined to continue her education, and she will not let this attack stop her from learning.’

President Hamid Karzai has announced that the men involved will be publicly executed.

The incident, which occurred last Wednesday, has been linked to the Taliban.

Deputy Interior Minister Gen¬eral Mohammad Daud, identify¬ing the men as Afghans who had travelled from Pakistan, said:

“They were led by the Taliban. They were taking orders from the other side of the border from those who are leading terrorist attacks in Kandahar.”

He added: “We have not finalised our investigation.”

Governor of Kandahar Rahmatullah Raufi said that the men had been paid $2,000 (£1,300) by the Taliban for the attacks.

Taliban militants have rejected all links to the incident, but these connections were made because the attack is thought to have been motivated by hostility towards female education, and the previous Taliban government banned girls from attending school until it was ousted in 2001.

Even now, only two million girls are currently in education in Afghanistan, mostly because many conservative families prefer to keep their daughters at home., despite government efforts to en¬courage the education of girls.

Many Afghans also hold the Taliban responsible for arson at¬tacks on girls’ schools, according to BBC Correspondent Sanjoy Majumder. Hundreds of schools and students have been attacked over the last years, and violence in Afghanistan has reached its worst level since 2001.

Girls have been blinded and permanently disfigured in past attacks.

Some 230 schools were target¬ted in the first half of this year alone, and over 50% of these were girls’ schools, despite such establishments making up only 15% of schools in Afghanistan, according to Agence France-Presse.

Peter Gibson