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An estimated 25 million Pakistani children do not attend school.

Pakistani police say at least 12 schools have been burned down in what officials suspect were coordinated attacks in the country's north.

The attacks occurred early on August 3 in the Diamer district in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.

There were no casualties because the schools -- half of them for 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.

Police have announced the launching of a criminal probe.

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.

Based on reporting by Dawn, Geo TV, and AP
Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov is seen inside a Russian courtroom on July 27, 2015.

Rights group Amnesty International says it has been denied access to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison term in Russia and has been on a hunger strike the past 81 days.

Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International’s Ukraine director, on August 2 said the effort by Russian authorities “denying us the right to visit Oleh Sentsov is indefensible.”

Amnesty said it was given no reason for the rejection.

Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, was sentenced in 2015 for conspiracy to commit terrorism, charges he and human rights groups say were politically motivated.

He has been on a hunger strike since mid-May in a penal colony in Russia's northern region of Yamalo-Nenets and has demanded that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners

Sentsov's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, on July 27 said Sentsov was pale and lies down constantly because he has difficulty moving. Russian authorities have insisted Sentsov's condition is stable with no “negative dynamic.”

“After almost three months on hunger strike, there are grave concerns for his health,” Amnesty's Pokalchuk said.

She said Amnesty representatives were planning to visit Sentsov accompanied by an independent medical expert to help evaluate his condition.

“Amnesty International calls for Sentsov’s immediate release and demands that, while detained, he has access to qualified health professionals," Pokalchuk added.

Several groups have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon Sentsov, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the Ukrainian film director would have to ask for a pardon himself before it could be considered. Sentsov has so far said he would not ask for a pardon.

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