Taliban using poison gas on Afghan schoolgirls?


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KUNDUZ: More than 80 schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan have fallen ill after a suspected poison gas attack on their school, local authorities said on Sunday, blaming the incident on the Taliban who oppose education for girls. Kunduz provincial spokesman Mahbobullah Sayedi said the latest case occurred on Sunday when 12 girls fell ill at school.

Officials said 47 complained of dizziness and nausea on Saturday, and another 23 got sick last Wednesday. None of the illnesses have been serious.

Sayedi blamed the sickness on "enemies" who oppose education for girls. Provincial police chief Abdul Razzaq Yaqubi also accused the Taliban of orchestrating the attack.

"I was in class when a smell like a flower reached my nose," said Sumaila, 12, one of the girls hospitalised after the alleged attack.

"I saw my classmates and my teacher collapse and when I opened my eyes I was in hospital," she said.

Azizullah Safar, head of the Kunduz hospital, said many of the girls were still suffering from pain, dizziness and vomiting.

The Taliban banned all education for girls when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and it remains a disputed issue in much of Afghanistan.

Similar attacks have been carried out in other parts of Afghanistan over the past few years, including areas where there is little presence of the dreaded Taliban.

Yaqubi said 20 girls had fallen ill in a suspected poison attack on another Kunduz school last week.

In the south and east, where the Taliban control towns and villages, girls' schools remain shut, teachers have been threatened and some girls have been attacked with acid.

Despite the attacks, Sumaila said she hoped to return to school, if her father allows her. "I am very scared. My parents were very worried. My father told me that I have learnt a lot. I don't know whether they will still let me go to school after this," she said.