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More than 120 Afghan girls sickened in suspected poison attack on school

More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers at a school in northern Afghanistan were victims of a poison attack, officials said on Wednesday.

An unidentified toxic powder was released into the classrooms to contaminate the air, Reuters reports. Students were reportedly hospitalized after complaining of nausea, headaches and dizziness. Many girls were left unconscious.

Afghan police and education officials blame the attack on conservative radicals and Taliban insurgents who oppose the education of women and girls, according to Reuters. 

"By poisoning girls, they want to create fear," said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's intelligence agency. "They try to make families not send their children to school."

According to NDS, the Taliban appears intent on closing schools, Reuters reports. Already 550 schools have been closed down by insurgents in provinces with a strong Taliban presence, according to Afghanistan's Ministry of Education.

A similar poison attack took place last month, when 150 schoolgirls were poisoned in Takhar province after drinking contaminated water.

Click for more from Reuters.