Afghan schoolgirls in suspected Taliban gas attack

Dozens of Kabul schoolgirls were admitted to hospital on Wednesday after a suspected poison gas attack on their school, officials said.

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2010, 22:23 PM IST

Kabul: Dozens of Kabul schoolgirls were
admitted to hospital on Wednesday after a suspected poison gas attack
on their school, officials said.

"Today at around 9:30am (1030 IST) around 55 people,
including nine teachers and 46 students at the Totya Girls`
High School, following an apparent poisoning incident, were
taken to hospital," education ministry spokesman Mohammed Asef
Nang said.
"They are in stable condition," he said, adding that
some had become dizzy and others lapsed into unconsciousness.

The suspected attack is the fifth such incident this
year in Kabul and the eleventh nationwide, officials said,
though they could not confirm the exact cause.

Blood tests from girls affected in previous incidents
had not yielded any conclusive results, they said.

Some observers have speculated that they were cases of
mass hysteria, though Nang said that today`s incident was "an
act of cowardice by enemies of women and education," a
reference to the Taliban.

"This is not an accident. Similar incidents have
happened in girls` schools before. We think there are groups
who do not tolerate development and progress -- their aim is
to prevent girls from going to school," said Nang.
Fifteen-year-old Ruqia, who was hospitalised after the
incident, said: "I smelled something very, very foul as I was
sitting in my classroom. I saw my classmates falling down, my
vision got blurred and I heard everyone screaming before I
became unconscious."

Police said the incident was under investigation.

The Taliban banned female education and work during
their brutal 1996-2001 rule.

Since their overthrow in a US-led invasion, millions
of girls have returned to the classroom and many women now
work outside the home.

PTI