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Suspects Arrested In School Torching Incidents In Northern Pakistan -- Officials

Pakistan, October 26, 2013: Interior of Girls' Primary School in Swat of Pakistan which was set ablaze between the night of October 25 and 26, 2013. It is the first time in three years that a school in Swat is either burned or blown up by unknown people.

By RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

At least 17 suspects have been detained in a Pakistani police operation to apprehend those responsible for torching 12 schools in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.

The attacks occurred early August 3 in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Faizullah Firaq, a spokesman for the Gilgit Baltistan local administration, told RFE/RL on August 5 that the operation becan on August 4 and was still under way.

Police say the school torching was a coordinated action.

There were no casualties because the schools -- half of them girls-only -- were closed at the time.

No group claimed responsibility for the alleged arson attacks, although similar incidents in the past have been blamed on militants.

Following the fires, residents staged a protest demanding the arrest of the culprits and greater safety for schools.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a remote and mountainous area that borders Afghanistan, China, and the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Pakistan faces significant education challenges, with an estimated 25 million children out of school, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

HRW said in a 2017 report that Pakistani militants have destroyed school buildings, targeted teachers and students, and terrorized parents into keeping their children out of school.

With reporting by Dawn, Geo TV, and AP