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Rocket Kills 6 Children in Afghan School

NIMATULLAH KARYAB, Associated Press | April 11 2006

ASADABAD, Afghanistan - Students at a crowded school in eastern Afghanistan were studying outside when a rocket slammed into the school yard on Tuesday, killing six children and wounding 14 people.

Police blamed Taliban militants for the blast at the Salabagh School in Asadabad, alleging it was part of their campaign against government-sponsored education. But the school is close to a U.S.-led coalition base that has frequently come under attack.

"Shrapnel from the rocket slashed through the children who were studying in the yard because there aren't enough school buildings," said Mohammed Hasan, a police commander in the city in volatile eastern Kunar province, near the Pakistani border. "Six were killed."

The wounded, including at least one teacher and the school janitor, were rushed to a hospital at the base, he said.

Hundreds of boys ages 6 to 16 were in the school at the time of the attack, he said.

One witness, 12-year-old student Omar Sahib, described a scene of horror.

"I saw so many children on the ground. Many were not moving. Screams were coming from everywhere. I was crying," he told The Associated Press. "One teacher was lying there without a leg."

As parents rushed to the scene, a second rocket also landed near the school, but it exploded in an open field and no one was hurt, the police commander said.

Militants in Kunar regularly attack the nearby coalition base with rockets, but they rarely hit. Asadabad sits at the bottom of a steep river valley and is surrounded by rugged mountains.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said he had no details on the blasts. Coalition helicopters patrolled the area after the explosions.

Dozens of schools have been attacked and many burned since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering terror leader Osama bin Laden. Most of the attacks have come at night and not caused fatalities.

In January, a school headmaster was beheaded in front of his family after refusing to close his school. In October, gunmen shot and killed another principal in front of his students.

The Taliban claim that educating girls is against Islam and they even oppose government-funded schools for boys because they teach subjects besides religion.

The past year has seen a surge in violence in Afghanistan, with militants from the Taliban, al-Qaida and other groups stepping up attacks on government-linked targets and U.S.-led coalition forces.

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