Afghans Arrest Schoolgirl Acid Attackers
They were walking to school in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a group of teenage girls discussing a test they had coming up, when two men on a motorcycle sprayed them with a strange liquid. Within seconds a painful tingling began, and there was an unusual smell as the skin of 16-year-old Atifa Biba began to burn.
Her friend rushed over to help her, struggling to wipe the liquid away, when she too was showered with acid. She covered her face, crying out for help as they sprayed her again, trying to aim the acid into her face. The weapon was a water bottle containing battery acid; the result was at least one girl blinded and two others permanently disfigured. Their only crime was attending school.
Afghan authorities have now arrested 10 Taliban insurgents, an official said on Tuesday.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Afghan police have arrested 10 Taliban militants involved in an acid attack this month against 15 girls and teachers walking to school in southern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Tuesday.
"Several" of the arrested militants have confessed to taking part in the acid attack, said Kandahar Gov. Rahmatullah Raufi. He declined to be more precise.
High-ranking Taliban fighters paid the militants a total of $2,000 to carry out the attack, Raufi said. The attackers came from Pakistan but were Afghan nationals, said Doud Doud, an Interior Ministry official.
A Taliban spokesman earlier this month denied that Taliban militants were involved in the attack.
President Hamid Karzai earlier this month called for a public execution of the perpetrators.
Afghanistan's government called the attack "un-Islamic," and the United Nations labeled it "a hideous crime." First lady Laura Bush decried it as cowardly.
Girls were banned from schools under the Taliban regime, the hard-line Islamists who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.
The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban's ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.
Afghan women are feeling more and more vulnerable as the security situation worsens. Those who defy traditional gender roles are routinely subject to threats, intimidation and assassination.
Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls' schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls' school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.
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