Taliban denies poison gas attack as schoolgirls are treated at hospital


John Wendle
Monday 22 April 2013 20:01 BST

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About 70 pupils at a girls’ school have been admitted to hospital with suspected gas poisoning.

The students had reported smelling gas during classes at the Bibi Maryam School in Takhar province’s capital, Taluqan.

“They were complaining of nausea,” said Sulaiman Moradi, spokesman for the governor of Takhar Province. “The police are investigating.”

The schoolgirls were taken to hospital, with most released soon afterwards, though several remained in a critical condition yesterday, hospital spokesman, 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,” Dr Frotan said.

Mr Moradi initially said he blamed “enemies of the government and the country” for the suspected poisoning, which he believed was an attempt to stop girls from going to school, according to Reuters. However, he later said the pupils had become hysterical, and there was no evidence of poisoning.

The apparent poisoning came three days after more than a dozen students were taken ill in another girls’ secondary school in Taluqan. “For girls to be afraid and for parents to be afraid to send their girls to school is perfectly natural,” said Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. The Taliban has denied any connection to the suspected poisonings.

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