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New suspected school poison attacks rattle northern Afghanistan



Afghan officials in northern Sar-i-Pul province reported two additional poison attacks against all-girls' schools, marking the fifth time suspected insurgents have targeted girls' schools in Sar-i-Pul since June 23.

On June 25, Afghan police officials reported that approximately 90 female students had fallen ill after entering Rahmatabad high school in Sar-i-Pul province, according to Khaama Press.

And on June 30, Afghan police officials reported that 53 school girls had been poisoned at the Chahar Bagh secondary school in Sar-i-Pul City, according to Tolo News. The students, ranging in age from seven and 18 years, were rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for exposure to an unknown toxin. Afghan officials have not identified the source of the suspected poison, nor have they publicly specified who they think is behind the rash of school attacks in Sar-i-Pul. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Taliban, who are known to be active in the urban environs of Sar-i-Pul, have previously denied being responsible for the rash of suspected poison attacks across northern Afghanistan this year. However, as of June 6, the Afghan government had already arrested 14 individuals, including senior Taliban officials, for their suspected roles in the poison attack cell active in Takhar province.

Yesterday's suspected poison attack is the 12th such incident in northern Afghanistan since mid-April, and the latest in a series of poisonings this year that has sickened hundreds of students in Takhar, Khost, Bamyan, Kabul, and Nangarhar provinces. For more information on previous poison attacks, see LWJ report, NDS arrests senior Taliban leader and 14 others linked to school poisonings, and TM report, Afghan officials report suspected poison attack in Sar-i-Pul.

Below is a timeline of the suspected poison attacks against girls' schools in northern Afghanistan this year:

  • June 30, 2012: Afghan police officials reported that 53 school girls had been poisoned at the Chahar Bagh secondary school in Sar-i-Pul City.
  • June 25, 2012: Afghan police officials reported that 90 female students had fallen ill after entering Rahmatabad high school in Sar-i-Pul province.
  • June 23, 2012: Afghan medical personnel treated 94 female students after they fell ill from a suspected poison attack at the Sorkhak girls' high school in Sar-i-Pul City.
  • June 22, 2012: Over 100 schoolgirls fell ill at the Hazrat Imam Zada Yahya high school in northern Sar-i-Pul province, which Afghan authorities blamed on a suspected poison attack.
  • June 19, 2012: Afghan officials reported that 46 schoolgirls were poisoned in the Karta-e-Sol school in Bamyan province, while an unidentified number of additional students were allegedly poisoned at the Shirin Hazara school in Bamyan earlier in the month.
  • June 5, 2012: As many as 60 schoolgirls were believed to have been poisoned at a school in the Rustaq district of Takhar province. Takhar government officials claimed that at least 11 suspects including a "group leader" had been arrested by local security forces for their role in the series of poison attacks in northeastern Afghanistan.
  • June 3, 2012: At least 65 schoolgirls were poisoned at the Nahid Shahid high school in the Farkhar district of Takhar province. Local officials said at least four suspects, including a Pakistani woman, have been detained in connection to the poisoning of schoolgirls in Takhar. This is the sixth time that the schools have been poisoned in northeastern Takhar recently.

  • June 2, 2012: Two dozen schoolgirls -- between seven and 18 years old -- were believed to have been poisoned at the Bashir Abad School in Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, and were sent to local hospitals for treatment.

  • May 29, 2012 : Local authorities in Takhar province believed that between 74 and 120 schoolgirls had been poisoned early Tuesday morning at the Aahan Draaw girls' school.

  • May 27, 2012: Hospital officials treated at least 40 schoolgirls from Bibi Hajera High School in Takhar's capital city of Taloqan after they had fallen ill, apparently from being poisoned. The all-female school had also suffered a poisoning attack a few days prior.

  • May 23, 2012: Eighty girls were evacuated from the Bibi Hajera High School in the 5th police district of Taloqan in Takhar province and were treated at a local hospital along with three school teachers and a staff member after falling ill from an apparent poison attack.

  • April 17, 2012: Afghan officials in Takhar province announced that dozens of schoolgirls had become ill after consuming poisoned drinking water at the Dabiristan girls high school in the Rustaq district of Takhar province. Subsequent test results of the possibly poisoned drinking water have proved inconclusive.



READER COMMENTS: "New suspected school poison attacks rattle northern Afghanistan"

Posted by gerald at July 2, 2012 3:44 AM ET:

No public "Outrage"? Why am I NOT Surprised!!

Posted by mike merlo at July 2, 2012 1:24 PM ET:

"unknown toxin." Huh? After multiple incidents & the toxin's 'content' still hasn't been determined? It seems like the US 'dragging their feet' in getting to the bottom of 'this.'

Posted by Mr. Wolf at July 3, 2012 7:20 PM ET:

Yemeni scientists? Punjabi metal workers? Uzbek miners? Ghanzi farmers? The difficulty of this is the non-lethal doses. Are they failures, or successes to the attackers? Also, with so many victims, what is the half-life or degradation period?