Twelve schools bombed, burned in northern Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Twelve schools - eight girls and four boys schools - were attacked by bombs and set on fire overnight in a northern Pakistani district where Taliban-linked militants opposed to girls’ education are active, police said on Friday.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Pakistani Taliban and allied Islamist militants, who regard girls education as anti-Islam, have been attacking thousands of schools for young women in northwestern and northern parts of the country.

The attacks in villages of Diamer district in northern Gilgit, an area known for its scenic beauty but which has seen Taliban-linked attacks on foreign tourists and minority Shi’ite Muslims, had been a well planned and coordinated act, police chief Raja Ajmal said.

The attackers had also tried to break into an army-run school, but had been stopped by guards, said a local resident, Ghayas Ali. “People heard heavy explosion.”

No casualties were reported.

“You know well who is doing these types of acts and what their motives are,” the officer told Reuters by phone. He said the residents had a history of opposing girl education, but the government recently helped build girls schools there.

Pakistan’s prime minister-in-waiting, former cricketer Imran Khan, condemned the “shocking” attacks on schools.

“This is unacceptable (and) we will ensure security for schools as we are committed to focusing on education,” tweeted Khan, who won last week’s general election and said on Friday he had enough support in parliament to form the next government.

In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban shot and critically wounded Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, known for her girls’ education advocacy in northern Swat valley.

Her father Ziauddin Yousafzai condemned the school attacks. “We have to provide the same sanctity to our schools and educational institutions as we do to mosques, temples and churches,” he tweeted on Friday.

Several Pakistani Taliban militants disguised in police uniforms assaulted a high altitude mountaineers’ base camp in the region in 2013 and killed nine foreign climbers and two local guides.

Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Richard Balmforth