Thirteen Islamic militants have been arrested in Pakistan after a girl's high school is set on fire in the Charbagh area in the troubled Swat district in northwest. Unidentified attackers set fire to the school and planted bombs in its science laboratory Sunday.
School watchman, Toti Gul, said that 40-50 men entered the school at midnight and used gasoline to set ablaze nine rooms of the only girls' high school in the area, news agency Media Line reported.
"The faces of the armed men were covered and they were chanting slogans. They directed me to take away all the copies of the Holy Quran from the school building. When I did that they set the school on fire and also planted bombs in the science laboratory. The bombs were later diffused by the bomb disposal squad," he said.
The watchman said the school library was burnt to ashes due to the raging fire, adding that the militants were bold enough to stay there for 25-30 minute observing the fire until it engulfed the whole building.
As annual examinations for the Secondary School Certificate are in progress in North West Frontier Province, it is feared that in the wake of the recent terrorist attack hundreds of girls will miss their examinations.
The principal of the school said she was not sure whether tomorrow girls would be able to take their exams.
Maulana Fazlullah, a militant leader and chief of the Taliban Movement's Swat chapter, has discouraged girls' education in his sermons through his unlicensed radio station and has forbidden parents to send their daughters to school.
Secretary of the Swat Private School Association, Zia-ud-Din, explained that girls' education was the main casualty of the conflict between militants of hardliner cleric Fazlullah and Pakistan security forces.
"About 1,200 educational institutions have been closed due to the conflict in the valley. They have bombed girls' schools in different areas and even killed female teachers. They preach that girls' education leads to obscenity and vulgarity, therefore it should be discouraged. This is very wrong perception of Islam," he said.
Militants encourage girls' education in religious seminaries and even collect donations for this purpose. However, they strongly oppose teaching girls modern disciplines such as science, geography, social sciences and mathematics.
More than 20,000 Pakistan security forces are fighting Fazlullah's militants, but have yet to prevent terrorist incidents in the once peaceful, paradise-like tourist district of the Frontier Province.
DSP of Matta Fazli Subhan Khan told Dawn newspaper that two of the detained men were 'hardcore militants'. No casualty was reported.
A bomb planted near the school was defused by the bomb disposal squad in the evening.
On Saturday, militants blew up three CD shops in the Shaukat Khan Market in Kabal. Another 14 shops were partially damaged.
Several areas in Swat are experiencing a resurgence in militant activities after a brief lull. People in Swat and Malakand fear that the situation might deteriorate although it was hoped that violence would end with the release of the chief of the outlawed Tekrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) following an understanding reached between the ANP-led provincial government and a local militant group.