Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools

Destroyed school in Saidu Sharif, Swat, Pakistan
A school destroyed by militants in Saidu Sharif in Swat

Taleban militants have blown up another five schools in north-west Pakistan, officials say, despite a government pledge to safeguard education.

The schools were destroyed in the town of Mingora in troubled Swat district.

The Taleban issued an edict in December that private schools must close by 15 January as part of their campaign to ban education for girls.

Meanwhile the Khyber route for supplies into Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Monday after a militant attack.


The attacks in Mingora took place despite a curfew. No-one was hurt as the winter holidays had begun.

A government official, Shaukat Yousafzai, told Reuters: "Attacks on troops are understandable but why are they destroying schools?"


The militants have destroyed more than 150 government schools over the past year, most of them for girls.

The Taleban want to impose their austere interpretation of Islamic law and oppose education for girls - which they say is un-Islamic.

Winter holidays began on 1 January but some private schools stayed open to catch up with lost classes.

But school owners in Mingora have now complied with the ban and say that the schools will not reopen until the Taleban revoke it or the conflict in Swat is resolved.

They say that even if they keep the schools open, parents are unlikely to send their children in view of the Taleban threat.

Mr Yousafzai said teachers were refusing to work. "I try to convince them but they're scared. They doubt the government's ability to protect them."

In her diary for the BBC Urdu service, a seventh grade schoolgirl from Swat says there was little excitement about the winter school holidays - which for her began on 15 January.

She writes on 14 January: "Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again."

There are close to 2,000 schools in Swat district. Some 1,600 of them are run by the government, including more than 500 girls' schools, education officials say. The rest are privately owned.

Route briefly closed

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says militants in Swat now control most areas except Mingora town and the road that connects it to the rest of the country.

Militants on the Khyber Pass
Militants have frequently attacked convoys on the Khyber route

They have been targeting school buildings, sectarian opponents and local politicians.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters on Sunday the administration was working towards reopening schools on 1 March.

She earlier said the government would work with the provincial administration to protect education, particularly for girls, in North West Frontier Province.

Meanwhile, a militant attack on Monday forced the temporary closure of the Khyber Pass to convoys supplying foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The attack on a military camp left one soldier dead.

Government official Zar Bacha Khan told Reuters news agency the route had been reopened after 10 men were arrested.

The number of attacks on convoys by insurgents has increased and the pass has been closed several times before.

Last December, Pakistani security forces attempted to clear militants from the route, which provides up to 75% of supplies for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

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