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Fifty Afghan Teens In Hospital After Girls' School Poisoning

CHARIKAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Nearly 50 teenagers were admitted to hospital after a suspected mass poisoning at an Afghan girls' school, a doctor has said, in the second such incident in a month.

The headmaster rushed his students out of their classrooms in the northern town of Charikar after they smelt an unusual odor and started feeling nauseous and dizzy, a 17-year-old victim told Reuters from her hospital bed.

"I am pretty sure whoever has done this is against education for girls, but I strongly ask the parents not to be discouraged by such brutal action and send their children to school," said Noor Jahan, a ninth-grader at Ura Jalili Girls' High School.

In another room a mother sat beside her unconscious daughter's bed, crying and rubbing the girl's forehead. Around her lay several dazed and pale schoolmates.

"I was in a lesson when suddenly two classmates lost consciousness and collapsed," said Nabila, a 21-year-old in one of the beds. Years of war and unrest mean children often finish school late in Afghanistan.

She said the room had filled with an odor like insecticide at around 11 a.m., and some girls started vomiting.

Police declined to comment.

The incident comes barely two weeks after a mystery poisoning at another girls' school in the same town, which produced similar symptoms, although victims of the first incident said they did not remember an unusual smell.

There have been no clues as to the type of gas used in either case. Blood samples have been sent to the nearby U.S. Bagram air base but results have not yet come back from the first incident.

Attacks on girls schools have increased in the past year, particularly in the east and south of the country, as a Taliban insurgency has gathered momentum. When the austere Islamists were in power in Kabul, they banned women from work and schools.

Forty-eight students were affected in the latest incident, although none were in critical condition, the head of the hospital told Reuters.