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Takhar militants poison more than 125 schoolgirls
Quetta Shura targets children in schools, NDS says
TAKHAR – Unable to confront Afghan security forces, and losing public support, militants May 23 once again released poison in a school, sickening at least 125 schoolgirls and woman schoolteachers in Takhar Province, in northeast Afghanistan.
The poison was sprayed inside the girls’ school by unknown militants, local officials said. Investigators have not identified the type of poison.
Medics transferred students and teachers complaining of symptoms like numbness and dizziness to the provincial hospital, said Abdullah Safi, director of public health for Takhar Province. While most of the victims were discharged after treatment, some remain hospitalised, Safi added.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility, but officials at the Afghan Ministry of Education link the attack to “the enemies of the people of this country,” a term used to describe Islamic militants.
There is no excuse or explanation for the unforgivable act of poisoning students, said Amanullah Iman, a ministry spokesman.
School attacks are sign of weakness
The opposition cannot confront the government face to face and is resorting to acts like poisoning students to spread fear, Luftullah Mashal, Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, said May 22 in Kabul, while discussing past poison attacks.
The Quetta Shura (the Taliban leadership committee) recently held a meeting led by Mullah Qayyum Zakir in Quetta, Pakistan, in which the Shura decided to target Afghan schools in order to inflict a strong blow upon the Afghan government and international community, Mashal said.
Afghan residents, however, say that the insurgents not only harm the Afghan people, they also inflict serious damage to humanity and Islam.
Islam teaches that all men and women should follow the path of education, said Ahmad Ali Ahmadi, a Kabul resident. The insurgents have clearly demonstrated their hostility toward Islam and humanity, he said.
Attacking innocent students shows the extent of the insurgents’ cruelty, Ahmed added.
Deputy Minister of Education Asef Nang called on militants to stop attacking schools and children, telling Tolo News education would help Afghanistan prosper in the future.
Latest in series of poisonings
The Takhar poisoning is not the first such attack. Hundreds of students and teachers in several provinces have been sickened by poison in recent months. So far, no fatalities have been reported.
On April 17, in an attack for which no one has yet claimed responsibility, 100 schoolgirls elsewhere in Takhar Province were sickened when a poison was added to the school’s drinking water.
Twenty-seven schoolgirls and teachers were also poisoned May 9 in Balkh Province, while 380 schoolboys were poisoned May 15 in Khost Province.
The attacks have not yet affected school attendance rates, but if continued, they could undermine morale.
In addition to the measures taken by security forces, public co-operation plays a vital role in preventing more insurgent attacks on schools, Iman said.
“The insurgents’ attacks cannot stop the education process, since Afghans already realise that illiteracy is the main cause of all their country’s calamities,” said Khal Muhammad, a resident of Takhar Province.
“From this point forward, people will co-operate with the government in securing schools,” said Muhammad, adding that he would encourage his daughter to continue her schooling and never to surrender to the rebels.