Taliban Uses Poison Gas Attack on Girls Schools in Pakistan

Taliban in the Northern area of Afghanistan are escalating their attacks against female students, Reuters reports. Last week more than 74 school girls reported feeling ill and were examined by medical professionals after a suspected poison gas attack by the ultra-conservatives who are in strong opposition to the education of women.

The girls felt ill after smelling gas in their classroom at the Bibi Maryam school in Takhar province. The spokesman for the governor Sulaiman Moradi’s office blamed the attack on anti-government elements whose chief aim was to keep girls from going to school.

The girls were taken to the provincial hospital and most were released after being treated, though several remained in a critical condition on Sunday evening, the head of the hospital, Dr Jamil Frotan, said.

“We have already sent samples of their blood to the Ministry of Public Health and it will soon become clear what the reason for their illness was,” Frotan said.

This is the second poisoning attack in Taluqan, the capital of Takhar, in less than a week. Only three days prior a number of girls fell ill while in session at the local high school.

No local group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Over last summer, four attacks against schoolgirls using poison were reported around the province. As a countermeasure, school and law enforcement officials searched the local girls’ schools for suspicious packages and other possible poison delivery systems.

Takhar has been a hotbed of militancy and criminal activity since 2009, with groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan active. Since the 2001 ousting of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, females have returned to schools, especially in Kabul. But periodic attacks against female students, their teachers and their school buildings, continue.

The most high-profile attack in recent months was the shooting of 14-year-old education advocate Malala Yousafzai by a Taliban gunman. Malala was shot in the head and a classmate was injured when they were attacked while boarding a bus.

Malala underwent emergency surgery in a Kabul hospital and was then airlifted to the UK for further treatment. She has now been checked out of the hospital and is attending school in Birmingham as of last month.

The Islamic militants are also thought to be responsible for the attack that killed 5 female teachers and two non-government aid workers in Northwest Pakistan after the jeep they were traveling in was ambushed en route to school. Although no group has claimed responsibility, the attack closely resembles several similar ones carried out by the Taliban in recent years.