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Taliban vow to open schools denied

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 18:07 IST
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The Afghan government dismissed as "ridiculous" on Monday a Taliban vow to open schools in Afghanistan, saying this was likely a pretext for moving "hate madrassas" into the country from Pakistan.

The United Nations also said it did not take seriously the announcement on Sunday by the leadership council of the extremist Taliban movement that was driven from government in 2001 and is now waging a vicious insurgency.

Education Minister Hanif Atmar scoffed at the claim, telling the Taliban burned down 183 schools and killed 61 teachers and students in the past one-and-a- half years.

Attacks by the insurgents had also closed down nearly 400 schools, most of them in the areas where they said they would open them up, he said in an interview.

Atmar also questioned the claim they would allow girls to go school.

"During the years of their power in Afghanistan they did not allow even a single girl to go to public schools. How come their policy has now dramatically changed?"

The United Nations mission was also dismissive. "I don't think we see this as being serious," spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

"The Taliban's record on education is a tragic one and I think speaks quite adequately for itself," he told reporters.

A statement read to the agency on Sunday by a Taliban spokesman said the movement would from March set up schools in areas "under its control" and had started publishing textbooks. The drive would cost one million dollars, it said.

"To boost their morale they are spreading ridiculous rumours that they have control over certain places," the minister said. "There is no territory, no province under their control."

Atmar said the Taliban appeared to be using education as a front for setting up conservative religious schools, called madrassas that teach the Islamic extremism feeding the insurgency.

"They are doing this in order to pave the way for the shift of hate madrassas to Afghanistan in order to train terrorists," he said.

To "reduce pressure on Pakistan and themselves in terms of hate madrassas across the border, they want to find a way to move those madrassas into Afghanistan," he said.

Pakistan is under huge pressure to act against madrassas said to train Taliban rebels and send them across the border to fight.

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