10 Arrested for Afghan Acid Attack

Omar Sobhani/Reuters

KABUL, Afghanistan — The police in Kandahar Province arrested 10 Taliban militants they said were involved in an attack this month on a group of Afghan schoolgirls whose faces were doused with acid, officials in Kandahar said Tuesday.

Shamsia, 17, received visitors at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Nov. 15. She and other students and teachers on their way to school were attacked Nov. 12 by men who threw acid at them.

The officials said that the militants, who were Afghan citizens, had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the schoolgirls and their teachers on Nov. 12 and that a high-ranking member of the Taliban had paid the militants 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,275) for each girl they managed to burn.

The girls were assaulted by two men on a motorcycle, apparently because the girls had been attending high school. The men drove up beside them and splashed their faces with what appeared to be battery acid.

Zalmay Ayobi, the spokesman for Gen. Rahmatullah Raufi, the governor of Kandahar, said the orders to carry out the attack had been given from a foreign country, although he did not identify it.

The militants were arrested by the police last week. Mr. Ayobi said a joint delegation from the Interior Ministry and the office of the attorney general in the capital, Kabul, had arrived in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, on Monday to evaluate the cases of the suspects.

The delegation, led by the deputy interior minister along with the governor of Kandahar, announced Tuesday that the suspects confessed their involvement in the attack, Mr. Ayobi said.

He said Afghanistan’s courts would decide the attackers’ fate after the investigation was completed.

At least two of the girls were hospitalized by the attack, their faces blackened and burned.

The attack was condemned at the time by Laura Bush, who described the Taliban as “cowardly and shameful” for carrying out the attack.

“The Taliban’s continued terror attacks threaten the progress that has been made in Afghanistan,” the first lady said in a statement, adding, “These cowardly and shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world.”

Mrs. Bush has been an advocate for the women of Afghanistan during her husband’s tenure. She has visited Afghanistan three times to put a spotlight on development and women’s issues, most recently in June, a trip cloaked in secrecy so she would not become a target of terrorists.