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Over 120 girls and teachers were hospitalized Wednesday from the Bib Hajera Girls School in the Northern Afghanistan province of Takhar after being poisoned by a sprayed substance, CNN reports.
As of Thursday, forty girls were still under a doctor’s watch with symptoms ranging from dizziness, vomiting, headaches and loss of consciousness, Dr. Habibullah Rostaqi, the hospital director, said.
“Generally they are not in a critical condition. We are looking after them, but let’s see what happens later. We understand so far from the situation … they are more traumatized,” he said.
According to the BBC, police contemplate radical insurgents sprayed toxic materials in the classroom.
This has not been the first attack on schoolchildren in Takhar. Contaminated drinking water poisoned 150 students last month. Although no group has yet to claim responsibility for either attack, many have begun blaming the Taliban because the entire region is infamous for housing radical extremists wanting to suppress woman’s education, Reuters reports.
During the Educations World Forum in London January 2011 Dr. Farooq Wardak, Afgahan Education Minister, claimed that the Taliban surrender their fight again woman’s education. However, the group never confirmed the allegation, according to CNN.
However, last week, in areas where the Taliban are highly supported, the insurgents closed down 550 schools in 11 provinces.
Lutfullah Mashal, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, told Reuters he believes the group’s newest offensive is to close schools before the 2014 withdrawal of foreign combat troops, which NATO just signed off Monday on President Barack Obama’s exit strategy, the BBC reports.
During the Taliban’s six-year reign, women were banned from education and work. After the group’s fall from power in 2001, women returned to schools, especially in the country’s capital, Kabul. However, there are still many attacks against students, teachers, and school buildings in areas where the Taliban are most supported.
Furthermore, the constant struggle over Afghan schools has created a strain in the newly established government, especially in the Eastern provinces. The insurgents’ anger comes from the government’s banning of motorbikes, a favorite of the Taliban. There has been a spike in attacks against schools after the government banned to use of motorbikes.
“The Afghan people know that the terrorists and the Taliban are doing these things to threaten girls and stop them going to school,” said Khalilullah Aseer, spokesman for Takhar police, told CNN. “That’s something we and the people believe. Now we are implementing democracy in Afghanistan and we want girls to be educated, but the government’s enemies don’t want this.”