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Third Afghan Girls School Hit By Mass Poisoning

Hospitalized schoolgirls with symptoms of poisoning in Charikar, the second of three recent similar incidents.
KABUL (Reuters) -- Nearly 90 young girls have been hospitalized after a suspected gas attack at their school in Afghanistan, the third in a series of such incidents north of Kabul, Afghan police and officials said.

The early-morning mass poisoning at Qazaaq primary school in Kapisa Province has put 94 people in hospital, mostly students but also three teachers and two guards, Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashari said.

The patients were vomiting and dizzy and some had been knocked unconscious, the same symptoms shown by victims of suspected gas attacks on two girls schools in the nearby town of Charikar, said Abdul Rahim Ayaar, a spokesman for the Kapisa governor.

One poisoning took place at a girls school in Charikar on May 11 and another on April 26.

The students were all out of danger, Kapisa police chief Matiullah Safi told Reuters, confirming the toll of 94 injured.

Unusually, the three incidents took place in a part of the country that was never under the firm control of the hard-line Taliban and kept its girls schools open while the austere Islamists ruled most of the country.

The government was investigating the poisonings, the Interior Ministry's Bashari said, but it was too early to determine who was behind them.

There have been no clues as to what the gas was in either case or where it came from. Blood samples have been sent to the nearby U.S. Bagram air base but results have not yet come back.

Attacks on girls schools have increased in the past year, particularly in the Taliban's eastern and southern heartlands, as a Taliban insurgency has gathered strength. When the Taliban were in power in Kabul they banned women from work and schools.

Last year a group of schoolgirls in Kandahar had acid thrown in their faces by men who objected to them attending school.