Nearly 80 schoolgirls poisoned in Afghanistan

Nearly 80 girls have been poisoned and hospitalised in two separate attacks at their primary schools in Afghanistan, an official has said.

It is thought to be the first time such an assault has happened since the Taliban seized power in August 2021 and began a crackdown on the freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

Girls are banned from education beyond the sixth grade, including university, and women are barred from most jobs and public spaces.

The education official said the person who orchestrated the poisoning had a personal grudge, but did not elaborate.

Nearly 80 female students were poisoned in the Sangcharak district of Sar-e-Pul province over Saturday and Sunday, said Mohammad Rahmani, who heads the provincial education department.

He said 60 students were poisoned in Naswan-e-Kabod Aab School and 17 were poisoned in Naswan-e-Faizabad School.

"Both primary schools are near to each other and were targeted one after the other," he told The Associated Press.

"We shifted the students to the hospital, and now they are all fine."

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The department has launched an investigation and initial inquiries show someone with a grudge paid a third party to carry out the attacks, Mr Rahmani said.

He gave no information on how the girls were poisoned or the nature of their injuries.

Mr Rahmani also did not give their ages but said they were in grades one to six.

Schoolgirl poisonings in neighbouring Iran

Neighbouring Iran has been rocked by a spate of poisonings, mostly in girls' schools, from last November.

Thousands of students said they became sick because of noxious fumes from the incidents, but there has been no word on who might be behind the incidents or what chemicals may have been used.