Officials Fear Sickness of 74 Afghan Schoolgirls Caused by Poison

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Close to 74 Afghani girls fell ill this weekend after a suspected poisoning at their school.

The girls attend school in the Takhar province's capital, Taluqan, which is about 150 miles north of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. Attacks on girls’ schools have become more frequent since 2001 when the Taliban was ousted from power in the country and girls were allowed to attend school again. Some in the ultraconservative country, however, have not responded kindly to the more widespread education of women.

Local officials reported that the girls said they smelled gas while at school, which officials now fear was some sort of poison. The girls were all taken to a provincial hospital for examinations, and many have fortunately been released.

A few, however, remain in critical condition as of Sunday night, said Jamil Frotan, the head of the hospital.

"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," Frotan said.

Sulaiman Moradi, the Takhar government spokesman, was angered and said that "enemies of the government and the country" are to blame for the widespread of illness, an all too common phenomena in the northern parts of the country where the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are active.

Despite hundreds of attacks on these type of schools—which include bombings, locking girls inside school houses and setting them on fire, poisoning the water and the air—a resilient population of girls are still attending school in the face of fear.

.Sources: Reuters, Daily Mail