Afghan minister

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday January 22, 2007

Kabul- Afghanistan's education minister said Monday that his government would not allow a plan by the Islamic extremist Taliban to open schools in spring in the country's south, warning that the militants aimed to turn the schools into terrorist training centres. On Sunday Taliban announced through a statement posted on their website that their leadership had decided to open madrasas (religious schools) for boys in the ten districts they were controlling by March this year.

The statement said the Taliban leadership had appointed a commission to work on the publishing of Islamic textbooks and opening schools in the designated districts in six southern provinces.

"We will never allow the opening of such schools, because our people will not accept these kinds of schools," Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar told a press conference.

Atmar said the Taliban's use of schools would "shift their terrorist training centres from Pakistan to Afghanistan."

Afghan officials have repeatedly accused the Taliban of using the madrasas in Pakistan as training camps that churn out militants who cross the border and attack Afghan and international forces.

Calling the Taliban "enemies of education in Afghanistan," Atmar vowed that the Afghan government would attack if the schools were opened.

He recalled that the Taliban killed 61 students and teachers and burned over 180 schools in 2006. The Taliban also forced the closure of nearly 400 schools, depriving 200,000 students of education in southern provinces, Atmar said.

Before being ousted in late 2001 by US-led invasion, the Taliban had barred girls from schools during the six years of their reign. They have also imposed a strict Islamic curriculum for boys.

According to Atmar, the Taliban claim they have garnered a million dollars to finance their madrasas.

"I don't know where the Taliban have got one million dollars from, from their foreign lords, from drug smuggling or from looting of public wealth," Atmar said.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency