KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A 23-year-old teacher burned in an acid attack on 15 schoolgirls and instructors wants the Afghan government to throw acid on her attackers and then hang them.
Kandahar's governor said Tuesday that authorities had arrested 10 alleged Taliban militants for the Nov. 12 attack in this southern city and that several confessed to taking part.
Gov. Rahmatullah Raufi said the men would be tried in open court, a pledge that pleased Nuskaal, a first-year math teacher who suffered acid burns on her shoulders.
"Those girls were simply going to school to get an education," said Nuskaal, who like many Afghans goes by one name. "My parents told me that security isn't good enough and that they were worried about me teaching. But I told my parents I won't stop teaching. I'm not afraid."
After the attack, President Hamid Karzai called for the perpetrators to be executed in public. Nuskaal said the attackers should have acid thrown on them first.
Men riding motorbikes squirted acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school. Several girls suffered burned faces and were hospitalized. One teenager couldn't open her eyes for days after the attack, which sparked condemnation around the world.
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Afghanistan's government called the attack "un-Islamic," while the United Nations labeled it "a hideous crime." First lady Laura Bush decried the attackers as cowardly.
The government charged Tuesday that high-ranking Taliban fighters paid the suspects a total of $2,000 to carry out the attack. The assailants came from Pakistan but were Afghan nationals, said Doud Doud, an Interior Ministry official.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied Tuesday that any of the group's members were involved.
Kandahar province is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamic militiamen who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and are now waging an insurgency against Karzai. The area is one of Afghanistan's most conservative, a place where women rarely venture far from home.
Islamic extremists have attacked many schools to discourage girls from getting an education. Raufi, the governor, said students at the Mirwais Mena girls school didn't return to class for three days after the acid attack.
Girls were banned from schools under hardline Taliban rule, and women could leave their homes only if they were clad in a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male relative.
Afghanistan has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since an American-led offensive ousted the Taliban following the Sept. 11 terror attack on the U.S.
Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Now, roughly 6 million do, including 2 million girls.
But many conservative families still keep girls at home.
Kandahar province's 232 schools serve 110,000 students, but only 26,000 are girls, the governor said. There are just 10 schools solely for girls, Raufi added.
Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls schools around the country. Attackers burned down a girls school in the northwestern province of Faryab on Sunday, said Gen. Kalil Andrabi, the provincial police chief.
Gunmen even killed two students outside a girls school in central Logar province in 2007, one of 236 attacks involving Afghan schools that UNICEF recorded that year.
The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys to join the Islamic militia.
In other developments, the U.S. military said Tuesday that its troops killed six militants and detained 12 others in two operations in eastern Afghanistan on Monday. The operations targeted militants associated with the warlords Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaludin Haqqani, the statement said.
Afghanistan's intelligence agency said it arrested four people, including three religious leaders and a youth, for alleged involvement in suicide and other bomb attacks in northern Kunduz province. The ring was tracked down after a failed attack earlier this year, when the would-be bomber failed to properly detonate his explosives, the agency said.