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Afghan girls treated after suspected gas attack

About fifty Afghan schoolgirls became ill and were taken to hospital after a suspected gas poisoning in their school in southwestern Afghanistan, officials said today, the latest in a spate of similar incidents.

The teenaged girls fell ill and some became unconscious after smelling gas at their school in Ghazni, a two-hour drive south of the capital, Kabul, said senior provincial police official Nawroz Ali Mahmoodzada.

"It is again the same kind of attack to discourage girls from attending schools," Nawroz Ali Mahmoodzada told Reuters.

"It is very disturbing. We have not yet found any clues to say where this substance is from or who is behind it," he said.

Safiullah, a doctor in Ghazni's central hospital, said most of the girls were treated and discharged. Others were still under medical care, he said. Mahmoodzada said none had died.

Today's incident followed a similar pattern to other attacks at girls' schools involving an airborne substance which officials say could be poisonous gas.

In other recent attacks in Kabul and in northern Kunduz province, girls reported smelling something sweet and then began fainting, and suffered dizziness and vomiting. However none of those cases resulted in deaths or long-term health problems.

The Taliban, which banned education for girls during their rule from 1996-2001, has condemned such incidents in the past and denied any responsibility.

They have however, torched dozens of schools, threatened teachers and even attacked schoolgirls in rural parts of the country where they are the strongest.