- The Afghan government have made 15 arrests for six attacks on girls’ schools in three weeks
- Those being held include 12 Taliban insurgents, a teacher and a school treasurer
- The Taliban have denied involvement saying that hurting children is against Islamic law
- In two cases female students were paid almost $1,000 to contaminate water tanks at their schools
By Tammy Hughes
PUBLISHED: 07:42 EST, 6 June 2012 | UPDATED: 10:27 EST, 6 June 2012
The Afghan government have accused the Taliban today of poisoning schoolgirls by bribing students and workers to sneak toxic chemicals into drinking water or spread it around school grounds.
Officials have said that 15 suspects have now been arrested.
They revealed that six schools in northern Takhar province had been affected in the past three weeks, and although they did not give a total number of girls who got sick, they said one school alone had 125 cases.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, girls were banned from going to school and women were only allowed to leave their homes with a male relative as an escort.
Shocking: The Afghan government have accused the Taliban of being behind six separate attacks on girls’ schools
After their 2001 ouster, Taliban insurgents would attack schoolgirls by spraying their faces with acid.
However, the group has appeared to tone down its stance against education for girls more recently.
And Government officials suggested the alleged plot may have been aimed at undermining the government’s achievements.
President Hamid Karzai has called for an investigation into the attacks.
Meanwhile spokesman for the intelligence service, Latifullah Mashal, said that his organisation had discovered a conspiracy by militants to try to scare families from sending their children to school.
Marshal said: ‘They want to create terror and fear among students, especially in the education sector and also in the health sector, which are two of the major achievements of the 10 years of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.’
He said that those currently being held for the attacks include 12 identified Taliban insurgents, a teacher and a school treasurer and his wife.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied any involvement in the poisonings.
In an email he stated: ‘The poisoning of innocent children is against Islamic law. The mujahedeen are not involved in the poisoning of schoolchildren. It is a crime.’
Government officials had previously said it was unclear what caused the series of outbreaks of illness at girls’ schools in the province starting about three weeks ago.
In at least one case, doctors in the capital city of Taluqan attributed complaints of illness by 125 students to mass hysteria.
But cases continued to mount and seven alleged school poisonings have now been reported in six schools in the province.
Mustafa Rasouli, a spokesman for the provincial government has told how the insurgents confessed to bribing teachers, school workers and even students to sneak toxic chemicals onto school grounds.
In two cases, female students were paid 50,000 Afghanis (almost $1,000) to contaminate water tanks at their schools with a toxic powder.
In other instances, conspirators sprayed a sweet-smelling yellow liquid around the grounds of the school, he said.
Officials did not identify any of the toxic substances allegedly used.