Plot discovered to blow up all-girls school in Iraq

U.S. soldiers found numerous explosives rigged to blow up the Huda Girls School in Tarmiyah.

Published May 4, 2007 7:27PM (EDT)

Here's a piece of news that fills me both with relief and with dread: According to Stars and Stripes, U.S. soldiers discovered (and defused) numerous improvised explosives in an all-girls school in Iraq that was set to open in the next month.

The soldiers were tipped off that something was awry when they found a command wire at the school's perimeter that, upon investigation, turned out to lead to one of the school's rooms. In the room, soldiers found five artillery shell explosives. But that wasn't all. According to the press release, the soldiers also found "two large explosive-filled propane tanks buried underneath the school's floor and numerous projectiles emplaced underneath electrical conduits in front of each classroom." (The unit that discovered the explosives believes they were set by al-Qaida members in Iraq.)

One of the most disturbing aspects of this story is the fact that this was not some haphazard effort -- according to this unclassified document from the Multi-National Force in Iraq, the wire was "well concealed with mortar and concrete," and "the propane tanks had been bricked over, and were completely under the floor." The report concludes that "given the care and work put into placing this IED, it is likely it had been planned for a long time." Even worse, the IEDs' wiring made it seem as if they were supposed to go off after the building was occupied.

I find it horrifying that this amount of planning was able to take place without anyone noticing. (The Iraqi contractors responsible for building the school are under investigation.) But I also wonder why whoever set the explosives is out to get this particular school. (It's the second time this month that explosives have been found in it.) Did it have anything to do with the fact that it was all girls? Was the school, which was being reconstructed by the local Tarmiyah government, just an easy target? Who knows. But regardless, news of the plot may itself make parents want to keep their kids at home instead of sending them out to be targets -- which doesn't bode well for local children's education.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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