Kabul: At least 60 girls fell unconscious at a school in northern Afghanistan after they inhaled a chemical allegedly released by the Taliban, official sources told Efe news agency on Wednesday.

The incident occurred on Tuesday in the Khurram Sarbagh district in Samangan province shortly after students at the girls’ school entered their classrooms, said Khairullah Anosh, governor of the province.

“Dozens of them first felt itching on their bodies and later became unconscious and fell to the ground,” explained Anosh.

The poisoning was caused by a strong-smelling white powder, sprinkled throughout the school’s premises.

Samangan Police Chief Akram Begzad said 30 students were taken to hospitals, while those in more serious condition were transferred to a hospital in Aibak, the province’s capital.

“Initial investigation shows that Taliban fighters, who don’t want girls to attend schools, were behind the incident,” said Begzad, adding that the insurgents often carried out campaigns against girls’ education in the region.

Cases of poisoning are common in girls’ schools in Afghanistan, though their causes often remain a mystery.

In 2013, 230 students were poisoned in four separate incidents.

While analysts blamed the Taliban, spokespersons for the militants denied any involvement.

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