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10 arrested in acid attack on Afghan schoolgirls

Faiez is a special correspondent; King is a Times staff writer.

Even amid the everyday brutality of war, it was an especially horrific attack: Assailants this month splashed battery acid on a group of Afghan girls, punishing them for going to school.

On Tuesday, Afghan authorities announced the arrests of 10 men, described as Taliban militants, in connection with the Nov. 12 attack in the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Men on motorbikes carried out the assault, targeting a group of about a dozen girls who were accompanied by several female teachers. Eleven schoolgirls and four adults were hurt, and at least two of the girls were hospitalized with burned and blistered faces.

The attack drew worldwide attention, with condemnations from human rights groups, the United Nations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. First Lady Laura Bush.

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Education for girls was forbidden during the five-year reign of the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that was toppled by a 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Education for girls has since resumed in much of the country, but threats against educators and students still abound, particularly in conservative areas such as Kandahar, keeping many pupils away from the classroom.

In announcing the arrests, officials in Kandahar said a high-ranking militant had paid the men to plan and carry out the attack. The payment, totaling about $2,000, was said to have taken the form of a bounty for each student or teacher they managed to burn.

The arrests were made last week but weren’t disclosed until Tuesday. Kandahar Gov. Rahmatullah Raufi made the announcement after the arrival of a delegation of senior Afghan government officials from the capital, Kabul. Raufi said several of the suspects had confessed.

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Terrorized by the attack, parents initially kept their girls home from school, but classes have since resumed, the governor said.

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laura.king@latimes.com


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