AP, Oct. 30, 2002

Afghan Girl's Schools Struck by Attacks

KABUL, Oct 30 (AP) Several schools with female students were attacked outside Kabul last week, with rockets fired at two schools and assailants barging into another and burning equipment, a U.N. spokesman said.

No injuries were reported in the attacks, said Edward Carwardine of the U.N. childrens agency UNICEF, which sent a team to the areas Tuesday and confirmed the attacks.

``We dont know why this is happening, Carwardine said. ``Clearly there is a lot of concern. Any attack against children should be condemned completely.

The incidents were the latest in a series of unexplained assaults on Afghan schools. The former Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was ousted last year in a U.S.-led bombing campaign, banned girls from going to school for most of the five years they were in power.

Carwardine said three of the four schools attacked Thursday night and Friday morning were girls schools and a fourth was coed. He said all the latest attacks took place at night, and no casualties occurred because students and teachers were not in class at the time.

In Nirkh district, a rocket struck the Fatima Tul Zokhura primary school, blowing a hole in the roof and sparking a small fire. A second rocket struck a wall in the Deh Afghani primary school in Maidan Shahr, damaging a classroom, Carwardine said.

In Charaka village, a school building in a mosque compound was raided by a group of people who hauled chalkboards and plastic sitting mats outside and set them on fire. An unexploded grenade was also found close to the building.

A similar incident took place at a girls school in Jalrez, when unidentified assailants poured gas on the roof, setting it on fire along with mats inside, Carwardine said. The building had been temporarily donated for classes by a roadside restaurant owner.

Only the school in Jalrez was closed after the incidents, Carwardine said.

``The attacks all took place in relatively short intervals, pretty much at the same time, but we dont know who these people are or if the attacks are connected, Carwardine said.

Local authorities and the governors office were investigating, he said. UNICEF delegates said they would replace the damaged materials.

``We came back with the clear impression that people were outraged about what happened. They want these people to be found and want strong action to be taken against them, Carwardine said.

``We have the very clear feeling from both officials and ordinary people that this is unacceptable. They want their kids in school, he said.

Earlier this month, a small explosion at a school in the southern city of Kandahar injured a teacher. In September, two school tents were burned down in the northern province of Sar-e-Pol.

The Education Ministry has appealed for $874 million to rebuild the nations school system, much of which has been damaged by years of war. The government estimates at least 2,500 schools need to be built and 3,500 others need repair.

Due to a massive shortage of teachers and school buildings, only 3 million of the nations estimated 4.5 children were enrolled in school.

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