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Afghanistan: 74 schoolgirls feared hit by poison gas

22 April, 2013

TALUQAN: As many as 74 schoolgirls in Afghanistan's far north fell sick after smelling gas and were being examined for possible poisoning, local officials said on Sunday.

While instances of poisoning are sometimes later found to be false alarms, there have been numerous substantiated cases of mass poisonings of schoolgirls by elements of Afghanistan's ultra-conservative society that are opposed to female education.

Local officials said the girls became ill after smelling gas at their school, Bibi Maryam, in Takhar province's capital, Taluqan. The city is about 250 kilometres north of, Kabul.

The Takhar governor's spokesman, Sulaiman Moradi, blamed "enemies of the government and the country" for the mass illness and said the aim was to stop girls from going to school.

The girls were taken to the provincial hospital and most were released after being treated, though several remained in a critical condition on Sunday evening, the head of the hospital, Dr Jamil Frotan, said.

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