Over 140 young girls were hospitalized Tuesday after the drinking water at their school was poisoned, according to local officials in Afghanistan’s Takhar province. Health officials are blaming the attack on Islamic extremists vehemently opposed to the education of women.
According to the reports out of Takhar, the victims affected by the attack range in age from 14 to 30. Provincial Health Department Director Dr. Hafizullah Safi informed the authorities that the school’s water tank had been contaminated and that hundreds of young girls were likely exposed, according to CNN.
“Looking at the health condition of these girls, I can definitely say that their water was contaminated with some sort of poison,” said Dr. Safi. “But we don’t know yet what was the water exactly contaminated with."
The Takhar hospital is reporting that none of the girls have died from the poisoning yet, though many have lost consciousness and more are suffering from vomiting and dizzy spells.
The conservative Islamist Taliban regime, which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, forbade all women from attending school. When the U.S. ousted the Taliban from power many girls’ schools began reopening in the Coalition-controlled provinces.
In other areas, however, conservative Islamism reigns. Despite the protracted U.S. occupation, the Taliban still controls large swathes of the central Asian country. It is likely that a group of Taliban or their extremist sympathizers is behind the recent poisoning.
In 2010, more than 100 schoolgirls and teachers fell victim to similar tactics. In the wake of those attacks, Afghan education minister Dr. Farooq Wardak tried to exculpate the Taliban, claiming that the deposed radicals no longer opposed women’s education. No Taliban leader or spokesman has confirmed Dr. Wardak’s claims since he made them.