Taliban militants are threatening to blow up all girls' schools in the war-ravaged Swat district of Afghanistan, promising to attack schoolgirls if the buildings are not shut down within a month.

In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered.

“Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society,” Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Teachers said that they had little choice but to comply. The Taliban have destroyed more than 125 girls’ schools in the area in the past year. Swat, once a relatively liberal area and a popular tourist destination, has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan’s Islamic militancy, which fashions itself on the conservative Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

The militants have also prohibited immunization for children against polio -- claiming that a U.N.-sponsored vaccination drive is aimed at causing sexual impotence -- causing a sharp rise in cases of the disease.

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