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Pakistani Taliban target female students with acid attack

By Shaan Khan, CNN
November 3, 2012 -- Updated 1528 GMT (2328 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two girls are left with severe burns to their faces after an acid attack on a college van
  • The Pakistani Taliban say any girl seeking an education will be targeted in the same way
  • A boy is also shot in the attack by "extremists," a local official says
  • Acid attacks have been used in Pakistan to punish women for alleged dishonor

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- It's the latest cruel tactic in the Pakistani Taliban's battle to stop girls and women from getting an education: acid thrown in their faces to scar them for life and deter others from following in their footsteps.

A doctor who treated the victims of an acid attack on a college van in the city of Parachinar in northern Pakistan last month told CNN that two girls had been left with severe burns to their faces.

The Pakistani Taliban have taken responsibility for the attack in threatening pamphlets distributed around the city. They also warn local girls against going to school, Dr. Shaban Ali said.

"We will never allow the girls of this area to go and get a Western education," said Qari Muhavia, the local Pakistani Taliban leader, when contacted by CNN by telephone.

Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

"If and when we find any girl from Parachinar going to university for an education we will target her (in) the same way, so that she might not be able to unveil her face before others," Muhavia said.

The Pakistani Taiban's violent campaign to stop girls from getting an education was brought to international attention early last month when gunmen in the Swat Valley attacked another van, this time carrying schoolgirl education activist Malala Yousufzai. She is in a British hospital recovering from a gunshot to the head.

Shahab Uddin, a local government official from Kurram Agency in Pakistan's northern tribal belt, said the acid attack was the latest method used to terrorize young girls and deter them from going to school.

Fifteen students, boys and girls, from Kohat University were on their way home to Parachinar when unknown "extremists" stopped the vehicle and threw acid at the girls and shot one of the boys, according to Uddin.

Two girls, Zahida and Nabila, and one more boy had suffered burns, Uddin said, while Mohammad Ali, a fourth boy, was the student who was shot.

"After throwing acid on the students the assailants opened fire on the van," Uddin said.

He said the girls who were targeted "are alive and out of danger now, but their faces are badly scarred."

Ali, of the district headquarters hospital, confirmed that four students were brought into the emergency room for treatment, three with acid burns and one with a bullet wound.

"We are all graduate students studying in the master's program, and we were coming back home after taking our exams," one of the girls who was targeted told CNN under condition of anonymity.

"We don't know who the attackers were, but when our vehicle reached Doranai they stopped us and threw acid on our faces ... now we are scared of going back to our studies," said another girl, who also asked not to be named because she didn't have permission from her family to speak.

Malala is face of global attacks on schools

"Other passengers who were sitting in the vehicle were also wounded, but they were not as serious as Zahida and Nabila," she said.

Acid throwing is frequently used as a weapon in Pakistan to punish women for acts that allegedly bring dishonor to the family, or just to enact revenge.

Another recent acid attack in Pakistan resulted in the death of a 15-year-old girl, Anwasha. She was allegedly attacked by her parents for engaging in illicit relations with a boy, according to Tahir Ayub, a senior police official.

The 15-year-old girl suffered severe burns on her face and chest, but her parents initially refused to get her medical help, Ayub said. She was eventually taken to a hospital a day later and died from her injuries.

"Her father said she wasn't coming to her senses so the parents threw acid on her to save their honor," Ayub told CNN.

Anwasha's mother claimed she had seen the boy and girl secretly meet and had seen her frequently speaking on a cell phone, Ayub said.

The parents, who live in a suburban village outside the Kashmiri city of Muzaffarabad, are in police custody, Ayub said.

The Taliban in Afghanistan also have used acid attacks against girls to discourage them from going to school. The victims are left to cope with a disfigurement that is shameful in their culture and is likely to impact their ability to have a husband and family.

Pakistan to honor girls injured in Malala attack

Journalist Amir Iqbal contributed to this report.

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