- Pupils suffered nausea and vomiting
PUBLISHED: 08:14 EST, 18 April 2012 | UPDATED: 10:10 EST, 18 April 2012
Ultra-conservative extremists have been blamed for poisoning the drinking water at a high school in north Afghanistan – making more than 150 girls seriously ill.
Students in the northern province of Kunduz suffered nausea and vomiting and some were left in a critical condition, a government education chief said.
Radicals who are fiercely opposed to female education may have carried out the attack – the official added.
Some of girls were allowed home after hospital treatment, but many remain unwell.
Attack: Afghan schoolgirls in Badakhstan. Taliban radicals oppose female education and often carry out attacks on pupils, staff and buildings
‘We are 100 percent sure that the water they drunk in their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or some other irresponsible armed individuals,’ said Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for education department in northern Takhar province.
They said they knew the water had been poisoned because a larger tank used to fill the affected water jugs was not contaminated.
‘This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls,’ said Haffizullah Safi, head of Takhar’s public health department.
Since the overthrowing of the Taliban government in 2001, females have largely returned to schools especially in Kabul.
The Taliban had enforced a six-year ban on education for women and girls between 1996 and 2001.
There are now thought to be around 2.7 million girls in school, compared to only a few thousand under Taliban rule.
Girls, teachers and school buildings frequently suffer attacks from insurgents; usually in the more conservative south and east of the country where radicals draw most of their support.
Plans: Nato ministers meet in Brussels to discuss troop withdrawal in Afghanistan
Government officials have not blamed any particular group for the attack, fearing retribution.
The attacks came as defence ministers from Nato countries held a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Top military and diplomatic officials from around the world were set to finalize the combat handover program and a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and it’s military after 2014.
The Afghan government said last year that the Taliban, which has been trying to adopt a more moderate face to advance peace talks, had dropped its opposition to female education.
But the insurgency has never stated that explicitly and in the past acid has been thrown in the faces of women and girls by hardline Islamists while walking to school.