By Vasudevan Sridharan
Poisoned schoolgirls lie on hospital beds. (Photo: EPA)
At least 300 girls have been admitted to hospitals after facing suspected gas attacks in their schools. Authorities believe the mysterious gas poisoning was carried out by those with suspected links to Taliban extremists. The girls's age ranges from nine to 18.
Three separate gas attacks were reported from Herat province. More than 140 girls fell ill immediately after inhaling toxic fumes in one of the schools. Two days later, a similar incident hit another school. Many teachers were also taken to hospital.
Nazia, one of the affected students, told Afghan Pajhwok News: "When I entered the classroom, there was a very strong smell. When I went home, I fell unconscious."
Another student named Atri Gul said: "When I entered the class my teacher asked us to go out. Then I didn't understand what had happened."
Though the exact cause of the incidents has not been established as yet, officials suspect Taliban's hand. The victims' parents alleged the gas attacks were carried out by opponents of the government. The Islamist militant group is vehemently opposed to education for girls and has been waging a deadly campaign. In July, some miscreants threw acid on three teenage girls while they were on their way to school.
Similar gas-poisoning attacks were launched by Taliban insurgents six years ago affecting dozens of schoolgirls in north eastern Afghanistan. Before the US government uprooted the Taliban regime, women were not allowed to go to school during the Islamist rule between 1996 and 2001.