Taliban Eyed After Girls Sickened by Suspicious Fumes in Kabul School

By Enjoli Francis

Aug 25, 2010 11:31am

ABC's Clark Bentson reports from Afghanistan: A suspicious gas leak at a girls school in Kabul this morning has all the hallmarks of an attack by the Taliban.  Gul Agha Ahmadi, the Afghan spokesman for the Ministry of Education, told ABC News that 55 girls and their teachers became unconscious after breathing the toxic fumes.  All were taken to nearby hospitals and treated, but were later released. The school has only propane tanks for cooking and heating. There are no other gas connections in the building, leaving officials suspecting some sort of terrorist attack. This is not the first time a mass poisoning like this has happened. Similar cases have occurred in the past months in Kundoz and Parwan provinces. The Taliban denied any responsibility for those attacks.  Education for girls was strictly forbidden under the Taliban. There have been a number of attacks by the Taliban where schools have been burnt down. In an extreme case, acid was thrown in the faces of young women on their way to school. Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus stated in a media interview that international forces working with their Afghan counterparts had rolled back the Taliban advances around the Kabul area.  On Tuesday, the Taliban dismissed the general’s assessment. “It is absolutely baffling to believe that a general could ridicule the intellect of the masses by making such preposterous claims about his forces complete and utter failure to reverse the Mujahidin’s gains in Kabul,” said Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, in a statement on behalf of the Taliban. The government has not yet laid blame for today’s incident. Toxicology experts from the World Health Organization visited the hospital, but there is no further explanation yet of what type of gas sickened the victims so suddenly.  In the 1980s, a similar event was reported on the West Bank. Students in a girls school began fainting. The Palestinian community raised suggestions of deliberate gassing by Israelis, who were outraged by the accusation, especially given the connotations of "gas" post-Holocaust. The story did not stop there, however, as girls began fainting in schools across the West Bank, and the fingerpointing only intensified. Eventually the Israelis produced social scientists with documented research stating that the pattern of girls fainting amid word of mouth "hysteria" is something that has been seen many times in many places. 

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