Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned

This incident has made headlines worldwide, and shows just how desperate the Taliban has become in its attempts to stop young Afghan girls from receiving an education.

From Turkish Press:
Another 98 Afghan girls were rushed to hospital on Tuesday in the latest in a spate of mysterious poisonings to hit three schools north of Kabul in a fortnight, officials said.

The children fell ill as they entered the school building in the small town of Mahmud Raqi, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the capital, teachers and students told AFP.

It follows a similar incident on Monday about 20 kilometres away in the town of Charikar where 61 schoolgirls and one of their teachers were treated in hospital, apparently also after inhaling some form of gas.

Late April around 40 other girls were treated in a different school in Charikar with similar symptoms.

The Taliban and other radical Islamic factions who also oppose the education of girls are waging an insurgency against the new administration that has seen several attacks on boys' and girls' schools.

Blood samples had been sent to Kabul to find out what the cause was, doctors said.

And from Syracuse:
Officials accused extremist militants of launching a poison gas attack Tuesday that caused dozens of schoolgirls to collapse with headaches and nausea as they waited in line for a Quran reading at their school in northeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists have regularly attacked girls schools in Afghanistan and the second apparent poisoning in two days has raised concerns that they have now found a new weapon to scare girls into staying at home rather than going to class.

Students were gathering in the yard of Aftab Bachi school in Muhmud Raqi for a morning reading of the Quran when a strange odor filled the area. First one girl collapsed, then others, said the school's principal, Mossena, who fought for breath as she described the event from her hospital bed.

Tuesday's incident is the third alleged poisoning at a girls school in about two weeks. On Monday, 61 schoolgirls and one teacher went to the hospital in neighboring Parwan province with a sudden illness that caused some to pass out. In late April, dozens of girls were hospitalized in Parwan after being sickened by what officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.

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