An Afghan cleric has been arrested after allegedly raping a young schoolgirl in the country's north on the second day of the Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam, Afghan security officials said on Monday.
The Mullah, named by the interior ministry in a statement as Mawlavi Sayed Ahmad, was arrested on Saturday after local residents caught him with the 10-year-old girl in Aybak city, in northern Samangan province.
Police said the girl was now under treatment at a hospital, while Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) described the incident as "terrible", particularly given the respect accorded to clerics in the deeply religious country.
"The mullah used to go to the schoolgirl's house, teaching her Islamic studies. The mullah raped her after the evening prayers on Saturday night," a local police official said on condition of anonymity.
The AIHRC said it had recorded a sharp increase in cases of violence against women during the past four months of the year, in a worrying sign for rights groups.
There have been almost 1,000 cases of violence against women so far this year, compared with about 1,300 for all of last year. Nearly 60 women have been murdered during the past four months.
"When a mullah rapes a small girl, it is not only a concern for the commission but for all parents living in this country." AIHRC commissioner Suraya Subhrang told Reuters.
A father killed two of his daughters in Naad Ali district of Helmand province on Sunday after they left home with a man working as a translator for foreign forces, said district police chief Omar Jan Haqmal.
An Afghan prison chief was also jailed for 16 years on Tuesday for raping a teenage girl in eastern Logar province three years ago.
(Editing by Rob Taylor and Ed Lane)