A GIRLS' school built with funds raised by Swindon’s Afghan community has been burned to the ground by the Taliban.

Now, the town’s MPs have been called on to convince the authorities to strike back against the heavily-armed soldiers responsible for killing dozens in Afghanistan’s Hazarajat region and destroying the Swindon-backed school.

Hazari families living in Swindon donated thousands of pounds to help construct the school, which opened three years ago and whose pupils achieved some of the highest marks in all Afghanistan.

Ezatullah Heydari, who fled to the UK 18-years-ago with his wife and four children, said his brother Shaukat was among those who fled into the freezing Navar Desert following the Taliban offensive last month.

He said: “My brother said there was a crowd of people under the stars. He lent his car for people to sleep in. He was crying. Men, women, elderly people are all outside in that cold weather, but nobody knows where else to go.”

Up to 80 people were killed in his village of Anguri, 170 miles south west of Kabul and 10,000 people in the region have been forced to flee their homes.

The 52-year-old, now living in Park North, criticised what he believed was Nato and Afghan government inaction in the face of a Taliban force armed with tanks and sophisticated night vision equipment. “It’s politics, in my opinion. The government doesn’t want the Hazara people to vote in the presidential election next April. They want to stop the Hazara from sending MPs to parliament.”

The ruling faction in Afghanistan is largely made up of ethnic Pashtuns, while those in the mountainous Hazarajat region are Hazara. They have a distinctive language and follow Shia Islam rather than the Pashtuns’ Sunni faith.

A march in Kabul protesting government indifference was targeted by a suicide bomber in November, killing at least six people according to reports. Ezatullah’s niece was caught up in the blast, although she was uninjured.

Taxi driver Ezatullah has called on British politicians to put pressure on their Afghan and Nato counterparts to put down the Taliban offensive in the region: “They should push the government to stop this genocide from happening. It’s genocide, there have been 10,000 people forced to flee in this cold weather. They don’t know where to go and the government isn’t trying to stop this war.”

It was too early to say whether the girl’s school would be rebuilt. Ezatullah cried when he heard the news. “I couldn’t control myself. The whole region was proud of that school. If the Taliban is there, they won’t allow women to go out of their homes. My own wife can’t read or write because when we grew up the Taliban wouldn’t allow girls to go to school.”

Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon, said: “The Taliban hates the idea of women being empowered to take their rightful place in Afghan society, which is why they target girls’ schools such as this. The Swindon community and indeed the UK Government have done much to help advance education for girls and young women. I will take this matter up with the Foreign Office.”