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WASHINGTON: Educa­tion is key to defeating terrorism, says US Secretary of State John Kerry, pointing out how during a visit to Pakistan he saw children even in remote mountainous areas attending schools.

Equally important, he added, was to fight corruption as officials in developing countries steal billions of dollars every year from state funds.

Secretary Kerry, who was speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, on Tuesday, condemned banks across the world for keeping the money stolen from poor countries.

“When I was in Pakistan as a senator, I went up to the area of the earthquake you remember a few years ago, up near the mountains of the Himalayas, and I remember these kids would come down out of the mountains, and they were in a tent with desks and a chair, and they had uniforms somehow that someone had gotten them,” he recalled while stating how education could prevent terrorists from recruiting children for their cause.

“And half of these kids were in school for the first time in their life. And why were they there? They were there because of an emergency that brought them there,” he added.

“Well, I’m telling you I don’t think we should wait for a flood or an earthquake. We have an emergency now and we should treat this as if it were an emergency now, and make sure these kids are getting the education that they need.”

Mr Kerry warned that terrorist recruiters were “literally prowling around” and had “a plan for 30 years or 35 years” on how to recruit young people for their cause while most governments in the developing world did even have a five-year plan to deal with this problem.

“We have to ensure that kids everywhere actually have schools to go, that schools do not preach hate and radical views, but they offer and prepare them for a better life,” he said.

“And guess what? That does take a little bit of money,” said Mr Kerry while reminding Americans of the need to finance education and other similar projects in developing countries.

“I am convinced when you think of the other side on which we wind up paying for all of this, it is far cheaper to do it up front and far more effective in so many different ways,” he added.

For combating terrorism, the world needs to launch an emergency global education effort now, said Secretary Kerry, adding: “We have to invest in education. I can’t emphasise this enough ... 120 million children and adolescents are out of school ... they need to go to school now.”

Coming to the second point on his agenda: the need to fight corruption, Mr Kerry said: “How astonishing it is that billions of dollars were stolen – maybe $50 billion from the government of Nigeria, maybe $30 billion from the government of Yemen – and that is stealing from the education and the health and the infrastructure and the future of the citizens of those countries.”

And corrupt officials in those governments alone were not responsible for this loot, international banks enabled them to do so, he added.

“And what about the banks that deposit that money and second it for those who have stolen it? It’s little wonder that there is great unrest in certain parts of the world,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2016