Armed men have burned down a girls’ school in northern Afghanistan, officials said on Saturday, with police blaming the Taliban for the assault as the militants expand their foothold across the country.
The attackers burst into the school in northern Jawzjan province on Friday night, beat up the security guards and set the building on fire, a local government official told AFP. “The armed men entered the school at around 10 p.m., beat the guards and set chairs, books and classes ablaze,” the provincial governor’s spokesman, Reza Ghafoori, said. “They also warned that the girls should not be allowed in the school again,” he said, adding that around 500 girls were attending the school.
Local police said the Taliban were behind the attack, adding that an investigation was underway to find the perpetrators. “They were Taliban, they have burnt schools in this area in the past,” the provincial deputy police chief, Abdul Hafiz Khasheh, said.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 when they were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion, opposed girls’ education during their reign. Millions of girls began attending school after the Taliban were toppled from power. But as the militants ramp up their 15-year insurgency against the Western-backed government, educational facilities, students and teachers have repeatedly come under attack.
More than 300 schools have been destroyed in the last two months, largely at the hands of the Taliban as fighting intensifies across the country, according to a government spokesman. No one has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack so far.