Afghan girls' school feared hit by poison gas

TALUQAN, Afghanistan Sun Apr 21, 2013 11:06pm IST

Related Topics

TALUQAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) - As many as 74 schoolgirls in Afghanistan's far north fell sick after smelling gas and were being examined for possible poisoning, local officials said on Sunday.

While instances of poisoning are sometimes later found to be false alarms, there have been numerous substantiated cases of mass poisonings of schoolgirls by elements of Afghanistan's ultra-conservative society that are opposed to female education.

Local officials said the girls became ill after smelling gas at their school, Bibi Maryam, in Takhar province's capital, Taluqan. The city is about 250 kilometres north of the country's capital, Kabul.

The Takhar governor's spokesman, Sulaiman Moradi, blamed "enemies of the government and the country" for the mass illness and said the aim was to stop girls from going to school.

The girls were taken to the provincial hospital and most were released after being treated, though several remained in a critical condition on Sunday evening, the head of the hospital, Dr Jamil Frotan, said.

"We have already sent samples of their blood to the Ministry of Public Health and it will soon become clear what the reason for their illness was," Frotan said.

The apparent poisoning came three days after more than a dozen students fell ill in another girls' high school in Taluqan. No-one has claimed responsibility for either incident.

Between May and June last year there were four poisoning attacks on a girls' school in Takhar, prompting local officials to order principals to stay in school until late and staff to search the grounds for suspicious objects and to test the water for contaminants.

Takhar has been a hotbed of militancy and criminal activity since 2009, with groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan active.

Since the 2001 ousting of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul.

But periodic attacks against female students, their teachers and their school buildings, continue.

Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and employment since 2001, but fears are growing that such gains could be traded away as Western forces prepare to leave and the Afghan government seeks peace talks with the Taliban.

(Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Stephen Powell)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

India-China Relations

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Northeast Floods

Northeast Floods

Landslides and floods kill 22 in northeast India.  Full Article 

Strikes on IS

Strikes on IS

U.S., Arab partners launch first strikes on IS in Syria.  Full Article 

Scholar Sentenced

Scholar Sentenced

China court sentences Uighur scholar to life in prison for separatism.  Full Article 

Drug Pricing

Drug Pricing

India withdraws pharma pricing regulator's power to cap non-essential drug prices.  Full Article 

Asian Games

Asian Games

Australia 'interested' in joining Asian Games.  Full Article 

iPhone Sale

iPhone Sale

Apple sells more than 10 million new iPhones in first 3 days.  Full Article 

Gaga's Album

Gaga's Album

Lady Gaga sheds quirky image for jazz album with Tony Bennett  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage