Officials Revise Toll in Terrorist Attack on Afghan School
American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ASADABAD, Afghanistan, April 12, 2006 Combined Forces Command Afghanistan officials now say seven children died and 34 more were injured - some critically -- when rockets fired by al Qaeda and Taliban extremists operating in the area slammed into the Salabagh Primary School yesterday.
Coalition medical staff members race to evacuate five Afghan children to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, for emergency treatment after a rocket hit their school April 11. At least one rocket exploded in the courtyard of the Salabagh Primary School in Asadabad, killing seven children and wounding 34 others. Photo by Pfc. Anna Perry, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
An initial report shortly after the attack had six children killed and 14 wounded.
"This despicable act is further proof of the enemy's wanton disregard for innocent civilians," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76.
The children were attending class in an outdoor courtyard when at least one rocket exploded among them, officials said. A second rocket exploded nearby, narrowly missing the courtyard.
The Salabagh School enrolls elementary and middle school aged boys and girls. Three boys and four girls died during or shortly after the blast, officials said.
Immediately, coalition forces and Afghan community members forged together to move the injured children to the medical clinic at the nearby Asadabad Provincial Reconstruction Team camp. Dozens of coalition and Afghan medical personnel treated the injured both at the school and in the clinic.
Gov. Assadullah Wafa of Afghanistan's Kunar province, and Army Lt. Col. Pete Munster, commander of the Asadabad PRT, addressed the people of the province over Radio Kunar within hours of the attack. "We continue to assist Afghan national security forces in removing the enemy from this beautiful country and to assist in providing stability and security," Munster told the public.
Taliban extremists have been implicated or have claimed responsibility for damaging more than 40 schools, assassinating teachers and intimidating school-aged children in the past year.
"These extremists are killing innocent children, and with them, the future of Afghanistan," Freakley said. "However, this atrocity will only strengthen the resolve of coalition forces and the Afghan people to continue its pursuit of the terrorists and build a stronger, more independent Afghanistan."
Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists oppose the education of girls and unrestricted education of boys. This is the most violent attack on a school since coalition forces removed the Taliban regime from power in November 2001.
"I told the people of Kunar we're going to seek, find and destroy the enemy," Munster said after his address. "And we're going to help repair the damage done to this school and this city."
"I think this shows the callousness and the complete disregard for the people of Afghanistan by the enemy," added Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chip Bierman, commander of Task Force Lava. "The thoughts and prayers of the Marines and sailors of this unit are with the children and their families."
Five of the more seriously injured children were flown to Bagram Air Base for surgery and acute medical care at the U.S. hospital there.
"On behalf of the entire coalition team, my deepest condolences to the seven families who lost the lives of their children today, and I wish for a full and speedy recovery of those injured in this atrocity," said Freakley.
(Based on a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)