Militants bomb girls school in Waziristan

Javed Aziz Khan
Saturday, May 18, 2024

PESHAWAR: Militants bombed another girls’ school in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within eight days, triggering fears among the residents of the province that had witnessed attacks on educational institutions almost on a daily basis many years back.

This was after a long time that two schools were bombed in North and South Waziristan in the ongoing wave of terrorism in many districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since mid-2021.

On Friday, a portion of a high school for girls in Wana tehsil of South Waziristan was destroyed in a blast. The Sofia Noor School was established with the support of the Wana Welfare Association for the girls of the remote and underdeveloped district a few weeks back. Construction in some blocks was still going on. The reports said that the blast damaged a portion of the building at around 3am but there was no casualty reported. Some social media reports claimed the administration had received letters for extortion but the locals categorically denied it.

“Those who attacked the school want to keep the people of Waziristan deprived of education and development. However, this will not discourage us and we will continue to educate the new generation,” said a spokesman for the Wana Welfare Association.

“About a month ago, we received a letter from a militant group demanding a specific portion of our funding. A few days later, another letter was thrown into our office, demanding a payment of 10 million rupees ($36,000),” a senior member of the Wana Welfare Association in Peshawar told AFP.

“Following that, we started receiving threatening calls from Afghan numbers, demanding extortion money,” he added, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

He alleged school administration was told demands were coming from local Taliban fractions.

“We made numerous attempts to reach out to these militant groups locally but were unsuccessful,” he said.

A district government official told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that Taliban factions are extorting local traders in the area.

“Those who refuse to pay are targeted, with their homes damaged or themselves killed,” he told AFP.

He said several traders have been kidnapped and murdered in the past couple of years.

The Wana Welfare Association has been working in Wana for the last 20 years in the education, health, agriculture and forestry sectors. It has established many educational institutions in different areas where thousands of poor children, including orphans, are getting education.

This was the second school in Waziristan that was attacked in eight days. On May 9, a girls school was bombed in Sheva town of North Waziristan. There was no casualty in the bomb attack on the Islamia Girls School.

In KP, hundreds of schools were bombed, torched or attacked with automatic weapons in different parts over a decade back. The situation, however, improved after police and security forces launched operations. There was peace for almost a decade before the attack on schools in Waziristan which triggered concerns among the local population.