Afghan education attacks kill 70 in a year: ministry

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 29 2009 07:25 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2009 03:27 AM

KABUL - Insurgent attacks and crime killed around 70 Afghan teachers, students and education workers over the past year, and wounded another 140, Afghanistan's education ministry said Wednesday.

Violence linked to a Taliban-led insurgency also stopped 240,000 students from attending school, mainly in southern and eastern Afghanistan -- notorious flashpoints -- education ministry spokesman Asif Nang said.

There were more than 200 "incidents" in the Afghan year to March 21, 2009 Nang told reporters. "In those incidents, we had 70 students, teachers and other education workers martyred and 140 others injured," he said.

About a quarter of the casualties were caused by crime and the rest from "terrorist attacks", he said, without providing figures for previous years.

Taliban-linked insurgents have been blamed for multiple attacks on Afghan schools over the past years with scores of buildings burnt down or blown up, as well as students and teachers threatened.

About 480 schools were still closed because of insecurity but authorities this year reopened nearly 100 after local communities put pressure on rebels to spare schools, Nang said.

Reopening the rest by the end of the year was a priority, he said.

Seven million school-age Afghans were this year studying in 12,600 schools across the country, the spokesman said.

This compares with about one million six years ago. The United Nations says roughly half of Afghan children -- mostly girls -- are still not in school.

The 1996-2001 Taliban regime stopped girls from going to school and women from teaching outside the home, severely denting the impoverished nation's education system.

The Islamist hardliners were ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion and are waging a bloody campaign against the new Western-backed government.