Afghan officials announced the arrest of eight people, including three women, in connection to the series of suspected poison attacks against girls’ schools in northern Sar-i-Pul province, according to a statement provided by the Afghan Ministry of the Interior to ToloNews.
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters that insurgents were responsible for the rash of poison attacks and that among those arrested were school students and school staff members.
In an interview with Ariana TV, Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Lutfullah Mashal maintained that the Taliban, Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) operatives, and Hezb-e-Islami were responsible for the attacks; and he claimed that a meeting held in Quetta between the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network had led to an agreement among insurgents to focus attacks against Afghan schools, including the burning of school buildings and the poisoning of students.
The arrests, which were announced on July 3, came soon after two additional suspected school poison attacks in northern Afghanistan sickened nearly 300 students.
On July 2, Afghan officials reported the first suspected poison attack against an all girls’ school in the northern province of Jawzjan, while a sixth suspected poison attack against a girls’ school in Sar-i-Pul province since June 22 sickened an additional 30 pupils.
Approximately 260 schoolgirls fell ill shortly after smelling a strange odor at the Masrabad School in Jawzjan and were rushed to the nearby Afghan-Turk hospital, according to a report in Pajhwok Afghan News. Some students had lost consciousness shortly after smelling the unknown gas.
Security patrols near the school and personal searches of the school’s nearly 1,000 students would be conducted from now on to help prevent additional attacks, according to Jawzjan Education Director Abdul Hai Yashin.
Additionally, provincial officials in Sar-i-Pul reported on July 2 that another 30 schoolgirls had been poisoned at the Altayeban School, marking the 14th suspected poison attack against a school in northern Afghanistan since mid-April. Similar suspected poison attacks have sickened hundreds of students in Takhar, Khost, Bamyan, Kabul, and Nangarhar provinces since earlier this year.
Last month, the Afghan government publicly implicated the Taliban and Pakistani citizens as culprits in the rash of suspected poison attacks against schools in northern Takhar province. On June 8, Afghan intelligence officials announced the arrest of Qair Khalilullah, the Taliban’s deputy shadow governor for Takhar province; northern Taliban commander Noor Agha; and a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) named Mullah Yaqub, for their roles in the poison attacks. Among the 14 individuals arrested for links to the Takhar poison cell were are least three women; two of them are school students in Takhar, and the other is the wife of a librarian who worked at the Qurloq High School in Kunduz province and who was also arrested in connection to the poison attacks. Mashal indicated that one of the two school students arrested had been paid 50,000 afghanis ($1,035) from the Taliban to poison the drinking water in her school.
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:
- July 2, 2012: Over 260 female students were reportedly poisoned at the Masrabad School in Shiberghan, Jawzjan province after they had breathed in a unknown toxic gas. Authorities also reported an additional 30 students had fallen ill from a suspected poison attack against the Altayeban School in Sar-i-Pul province.
- July 1, 2012: Afghan police officials reported that 53 school girls had been poisoned at the Chahar Bagh secondary school in Sar-i-Pul City.
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 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.