More than 100 schoolgirls have been rushed to hospitals in northeastern Afghanistan after drinking what is feared to be poisonous water from a tank at their school.
More than 100 schoolgirls in Afghanistan have fallen sick after drinking water that is suspected to have been poisoned in the small town of Rustaq in the northeastern Afghan province of Takhar.
In what appears to be an attempt by opponents of education for girls, the poison scare incident highlights threats to girls' education in Afghanistan.
"I think some radical elements who oppose girls going to school are behind this act," said district governor Mohammad Hussain, adding that police were investigating the incident.
In stable condition
Provincial health director Hafizullah Safi said 140 schoolgirls had been admitted to local hospitals on Tuesday but most of them were later released after recovering from headache and nausea symptoms.
"Most of the schoolgirls who were brought to the hospital after falling ill have been dismissed, the other girls in the hospital are in stable condition," he said.
Spokesman of Afghanistan's Education Ministry Abdul Saboor, however, said it would not be wise to jump to conclusions about the Takhar incident.
"According to our reports, a number of these schoolgirls were panicked and taken to hospital and they were then quickly dismissed ... But some others are still there. We think it is a small incident, but we are continuing our investigations," said Saboor.
Continued threats to girls' education
Islamist extremists in Afghanistan oppose the education of girls and women. Females were not allowed to go to schools in Afghanistan during the strict Islamic rule of the Taliban in late 1990s. Afghan women were also banned from working in offices in Afghanistan until a US-led invasion in 2001 deposed the Taliban regime.
The state of women's education in Afghanistan has improved since 2001. Millions of girls now go to school. They continue, however, to receive threats from extremists.
In similar cases last year, hundreds of schoolgirls fell ill across the country from suspected gas attacks or water poisoning.
ss/sb (AFP, Reuters)