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Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:01 UK

Pupils boycott Afghanistan school

By Martin Vennard
BBC News

Sick Afghan school child
The Taleban have denied they were responsible for the attack

Staff at a school in Afghanistan where around 90 girls fell ill on Tuesday from apparent gas poisoning say the majority of pupils have stayed away.

They say that classes were unattended on Wednesday out of fear of further such incidents.

The Afghan authorities are investigating whether the girls were the victims of a pre-meditated attack.

It is the third such incident in the area north of the capital, Kabul, in the last three weeks.

'Dizzy and weak'

If the girls were the victims of an attack, then the perpetrators have probably achieved their aim - preventing girls from attending classes.

Map

Staff at the girls school in Kapisa province said only 40 pupils out of more than 600 turned up on Wednesday.

The head teacher said she was still feeling the effects of the fumes.

"Only a small number of pupils came to school today because they were very scared after what happened yesterday. Even I don't feel normal. I still feel dizzy and weak," she said.

Another member of staff appealed to girls to come back to school.

"We talked to the pupils today about the incident and told them not to be afraid because their security will be assured. They should keep coming to school."

The Afghan authorities say they are still investigating the cause of Tuesday's poisonings, but a Member of Parliament for the area said they were the result of an attack by what he called the enemies of the government - a term often used to refer to the Taleban.

However, a spokesman for the Taleban denied it was involved and said it did not support such actions.

On Monday around 60 school girls were taken ill with similar symptoms in a neighbouring province, Parwan, the scene of another such incident in April.

The Taleban opposed the education of girls when they were in power and have in the past attacked schools.



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