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Counterterrorism Official Killed By Gunman In Western Afghanistan

Afghan soldiers at the site of a bomb explosion in Herat province in April 10.

Officials in Afghanistan say a gunman has shot and killed a deputy counterterrorism official in the country’s western province of Farah.

Mohammad Naser Mehri, a spokesman for Farah’s provincial governor, said the unknown gunman opened fire on the vehicle of the official, Abdul Jalal, and killed him on May 3.

The attack took place in the provincial capital, the city of Farah, as Jalal was returning to his home from work.

The gunman escaped from the scene of the killing.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

With reporting by AP

RFE/RL Journalists Buried In Kabul After Suicide Bombing

Sabawoon Kakar was one of nine journalists killed in the April 30 attack.

The funeral of RFE/RL journalist Sabawoon Kakar took place in Kabul on May 1, one day after he was killed in a suicide bombing.

Kakar was one of nine journalists killed in the April 30 attack.

His funeral was attended by family, friends, and colleagues.

RFE/RL journalists Sabawoon Kakar (left), Abadullah Hananzai (middle) and Maharram Durrani
RFE/RL journalists Sabawoon Kakar (left), Abadullah Hananzai (middle) and Maharram Durrani

Another RFE/RL journalist killed in the same attack, Abadullah Hananzai, was buried on April 30, as was Maharram Durrani, who was training to become a journalist at the Kabul bureau of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

Kakar had worked for RFE/RL for five years, producing feature stories and news reports.

"He was often covering the aftermath of suicide attacks and other dangerous spot news situations," said Qadir Habib, a senior editor for Radio Free Afghanistan. "He was a brave man who was never afraid to cover dangerous stories."

Number Of Afghan Security Forces Drops 10 Percent During Past Year

FILE: Afghan soldiers keep watch near the site of a blast in Kabul in March.

The U.S. government's watchdog on Afghanistan says the number of Afghan security forces has decreased by nearly 11 percent during the past year as security in the country has deteriorated.

In a quarterly reportto the U.S. Congress that was released on May 1, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the number of troops in the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF) totaled an estimated 296,400 people in January.

That was a drop of 10.6 percent compared to the same month in 2017.

The authorized strength of the ANDSF is 334,000 -- including personnel in the army, air force, and police.

The United States and NATO have been attempting for the last 17 years to build the capacity of Afghan security forces so that it is able to defend and hold territory.

But SIGAR says the Afghan government now controls only about 56 percent of the territory in the country.

"Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing," SIGAR chief John Sopko said.

With reporting by Reuters

Three Killed When Afghan Children Set Off Unexploded Mortar

FILE: Children make a large part of the civilians killed in the fighting and militant attacks in Afghanistan

A group of children have set off an unexploded mortar round in a residential area in eastern Afghanistan, causing an explosion that killed a woman and two children.

Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, says another seven children were wounded by the April 29 blast.

Khogyani says the mortar round had been fired by militants the night before but failed to explode.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Suicide Bomber Kills Six In Afghanistan

Afghan National Army during an operation in Helmand Province

A suicide bomber in a minivan has attacked an army base in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province, killing four civilians and two soldiers, officials say.

Three civilians and two soldiers were also wounded in the April 28 attack in Nad Ali district, said Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand.

Major Abdul Qadeer Bahadorzai, a spokesman for the local army commander, confirmed the attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban insurgents announced the start of their annual spring offensive on April 25.

In neighboring Pakistan, gunmen shot dead four people in the northwestern tribal region along the Afghan border, a local official said.

Ikhlaq Bangash, deputy administrator in South Waziristan, said three tourists from Dera Ismail Khan and their driver were killed in the attack on their camp in the Momi Karam area on April 27 in the evening.

Bangash said the attackers burned down the camp after shooting the tourists.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killings.

Islamic militants had sanctuaries in the tribal region until a 2009 Pakistani Army offensive, after which most militants escaped to Afghanistan but some sporadically strike back.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, Tolo News, and Dawn

NATO Supports Afghan Leader's Call For Peace Talks With Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

NATO has expressed support for an offer by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Taliban to hold peace talks, describing it as an “unprecedented” opportunity to end fighting in the insurgency-wracked country.

In a statement on April 27, NATO foreign ministers said the 29 allies "are united in their support for this proposal," and that they would respect a political settlement that ends violence.

Ghani has offered the Taliban unconditional peace talks accompanied by a cease-fire, recognition of them as a political party, and the release of some prisoners, among other incentives.

NATO is also open to talks between Kabul and the Taliban on the future role of the international community in the country.

The Taliban has insisted that international troops must leave.

With reporting by AP

Eastern Afghan Deputy Governor Killed By Taliban

Qamar-u-din Shakeb and at least one of his bodyguards was killed.

Taliban insurgents have ambushed and killed the deputy governor of Afghanistan's eastern Logar Province, police say.

The attack, which killed Qamar-u-din Shakeb and at least one of his bodyguards, occurred on April 26 in the Mohammad Agha district of the province, police said.

“He was on his way to Kabul when he was attacked," police official Asmatullah Alizai told RFE/RL.

Alizai said Shakeb's bodyguard was also seriously injured in the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Taliban insurgents control large swaths of eastern Logar Province, and frequently attack Afghan security forces.

With reporting by AP

Turkey Faces 'New Refugee Wave' After Nearly 30,000 Afghans Arrive

Refugees arrive in Turkey along a route to the west, in Erzurum, on April 24.

Turkey says nearly 30,000 Afghans have entered the country since the start of the year, in what Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu called "a new refugee wave."

Soylu said on April 25 that 29,899 Afghans had crossed into Turkey since January compared to 45,259 people in the whole of 2017, state news agency Anadolu reported.

"In recent months, we are facing a new refugee wave, especially from Afghanistan," Soylu said, adding that 1,328 people smugglers had been detained so far this year.

Turkey is a key transit route for migrants from Afghanistan and other countries in Asia and the Middle East seeking to reach Europe in search of better lives and work.

Rights groups have criticized Ankara for deporting migrants back to conflict-torn countries such as Afghanistan, saying it was putting their lives at risk.

Turkish authorities have sent back 7,100 Afghan migrants since early April, Amnesty International said on April 24, as it denounced the "ruthless deportation drive."

"Thousands more are in detention, being treated more like criminals than people fleeing conflict and persecution," the London-based rights group said in a statement.

There are 145,000 Afghans in Turkey, according to Amnesty,

The country is also home to more than 3 million Syrian refugees, as well as more than 300,000 Iraqis, who have fled conflicts in their respective countries.

Turkey has started work on a border wall along its frontier with Iran, which is being crossed by migrants coming from the east. It also built a wall along much of the border with Syria.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Afghan Taliban Announces Launch Of Spring Offensive

Afghan security personnel keep watch at the site of an attack by Taliban militants on a government compound in the Khwaja Omari district in the southeastern province of Ghazni on April 12.

The Afghan Taliban has announced the launch of its annual spring offensive.

In a statement released online on April 25, the militant group said the offensive will be "mainly focused on crushing, killing, and capturing American invaders." It said the Americans' "internal supporters" -- the Afghan government and troops -- are considered secondary priorities.

The Taliban announcement comes amid a new wave of attacks across Afghanistan.

At least 11 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed on April 24 in separate Taliban attacks in Farah and Ghazni provinces.

On April 23, Taliban militants attacks in western Afghanistan killed 18 soldiers and police officers.

Separately, an April 22, a suicide bombing in Kabul claimed by the Islamic State extremist group killed 60 people.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Taliban Attacks Kill Nine Afghan Soldiers, Police

An Afghan policeman outside the government district building after a Taliban attack in the Khawaja Omari district of Ghazni Province on April 12.

Afghan officials say a new wave of Taliban attacks has killed at least nine soldiers and police officers.

Mohammad Naser Mehri, the spokesman for the governor of the western Farah Province, said on April 24 that at least five soldiers were killed and two were wounded when their checkpoint was attacked by Taliban militants in the province's Bala Buluk district.

Six Taliban fighters were killed and three others were wounded in the battle, which lasted several hours, Mehri said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in the eastern Ghazni Province that killed at least four members of the local police force and wounded seven.

The assailants targeted a security post in the district of Jaghatu, according to Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor. Noori said the battle lasted several hours and that the attackers used artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Ghazni attack in a message to the media.

Also on April 24, the Health Ministry raised the death toll from an April 22 suicide bombing by the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Kabul to 60, after three more victims died in the hospital.

On April 23, Taliban attacks in western Afghanistan killed 18 soldiers and police officers.

Based on reporting by AP and Tolo News

Taliban Attacks Kill At Least 14 Troops, Police

FILE: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Badghis in December 2017.

Two near-simultaneous Taliban attacks in Afghanistan's western Badghis province have killed at least 14 troops and police officers, Afghan officials say.

Deputy provincial police chief Ghulam Sarwar Haidari said a large number of insurgents attacked Afghan Army troops in the Ab Kamari district, killing nine soldiers in that attack on April 23.

At the same time, another attack by insurgents on police in the Qadis district killed five police officers, Haidari said.

Sharafuddin Majidi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed the death toll.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

Haidari blamed the Taliban who have stepped up their attacks on Afghan security forces across Badghis.

On April 22, an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a voter registration center in the capital, Kabul, killing 57 people.

Based on reporting by AP and tolonews.com

Afghan Army: Dozens Of Militants Killed In Operations

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers march during a training exercise of a graduation ceremony at a training center in the western Herat province on April 15.

Dozens of suspected Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants were killed by Afghan security forces in the past 24 hours across the country, Afghan authorities said on April 21.

The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that 21 suspected Taliban militants, including a local commander, were killed in raids in various parts of the country, including Balkh, Helmand, Kapisa, and Khost.

The local commander, Mullah Jalal, was killed in the northern province of Faryab, the statement said. According to the ministry, 17 insurgents were wounded in the army operations.

It said at least 27 suspected IS fighters have been killed in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where the extremist group has control over some small pockets.

Military operations were conducted in Nangarhar’s Batikot, Deh Bala, Dur Baba, and Rodat districts, local military commanders said.

In a separate development, at least six police officers were killed when a group of Taliban fighters attacked and overran a police checkpoint in northern Sari Pul Province.

Zabi Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said two other police officers were wounded in the attack, which took place in Sayad district late on April 20.

Reinforcements arrived and a sporadic gunbattle is still under way in Sayad district, Amani said on April 21.

The spokesman added that three Taliban fighters were killed and two others were wounded in the battle.

With reporting by tolonews.com and AP

Afghanistan Returns Five Bodies, Captured Pakistani Soldier

Afghan authorities have returned the bodies of five Pakistani soldiers killed during a weekend clash along a disputed sector of the two countries' border, and also released a sixth soldier captured by the Afghans, Pakistan's Foreign Office says.

Islamabad had described the clash as an attack on a Pakistani border post in the Kurram tribal region, saying it was carried out by Afghan forces and tribesmen.

Muhammad Faisal, a spokesman for the Foreign Office, said the two sides resolved the issue of the incident through "diplomatic and military channels."

Initial reports had said the Pakistani Frontier Corps troops were carrying out "routine surveillance" when they were "fired upon from the Afghanistan side," leaving two dead and five wounded.

The Afghan police said the clashes erupted after Pakistani forces crossed into Afghanistan.

Separately, three Afghan election workers and two police officers, who were kidnapped in Ghor Province on April 17 by militants, were freed, police said.

With reporting by AP

Six Afghan Civilians Said Killed In Attack In Western Province

FILE: Members of Afghan Hazara community rally to demand the government bring security in Herat in September 2017.

At least six civilians have been shot dead by gunmen in Afghanistan's western Ghor Province, an Afghan official says.

Iqbal Nezami, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said four other civilians were wounded after their car was fired upon near Faroz Koh, the provincial capital, early on April 17.

The victims were all ethnic Hazaras, a Shi'ite minority that is frequently targeted by Sunni extremists in different parts of Afghanistan.

Nezami said the Hazaras were traveling from the province of Herat to Ghor when they came under attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban and Islamic State militants are both active in Ghor and have previously claimed attacks in the province.

Based on reporting by AP and Tolo News

Afghanistan Launches Voter Registration For Parliamentary Elections

Gulajan Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan

Afghanistan has launched its voter registration drive for long-delayed parliamentary and provincial council elections that are scheduled for October.

Gulajan Sayyad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), told reporters on April 14 that voters could register in some 7,300 polling centers across the country.

As part of electoral reforms after the fraud-marred presidential election in 2014, voters must register again and will receive new voting identification cards.

In early April, the IEC announced that parliamentary and provincial council elections, originally slated for July, would be pushed back to October 20.

Mohammad Yousuf Rashed, the head of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, an independent organization, said that of 7,300 polling stations due to be set up for the elections, 948 were in areas "out of government control."

Parliamentary elections should have been held in 2015 but were postponed after the 2014 presidential vote and unresolved disputes about election reforms.

Based on reporting by dpa and Tolo News

At Least 13 Afghan Troops Killed In Taliban Attacks

Afghan soldiers at the site of a bomb explosion in Shindand district of western Herat province on April 10.

At least 13 Afghan security forces have been killed in suspected Taliban attacks in western Herat Province, officials say.

Ten police were killed and four wounded in the Shindad district, where fighting with the militants lasted for hours, Shukrullah Shaker, the district governor, said on April 13.

An unspecified number of militants were also killed, according to Shaker.

He blamed the Taliban for the attack, although no militant group has so far claimed responsibility.

Also overnight, suspected Taliban militants attacked several police posts in eastern Paktia Province, leaving at least three police dead, according to Gul Agha Roohani, the province's police chief.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in Paktia in a text message sent to the media.

The violence comes a day after the UN said more than 700 civilians had been killed and nearly 1,500 wounded in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2018.

"Afghan civilians continue to suffer, caught in the conflict, in ways that are preventable; this must stop now," said Ingrid Hayden, the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

UN: Over 700 Civilians Killed In Afghanistan In First Three Months Of 2018

UNAMA said it was concerned by a 6 percent increase in civilian casualties caused by antigovernment groups.

The United Nations says more than 700 civilians were killed in the first three months of 2018 in Afghanistan.

In its quarterly report issued on April 12, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 763 civilians were killed and 1,495 others injured between January 1 and March 31, a similar figure to the same period in 2017.

UNAMA said it was concerned by a 6 percent increase in civilian casualties caused by antigovernment groups.

It said pro-government forces, including Afghan security forces, government-sponsored militias, and international troops, reduced civilian casualties by 13 percent compared to the previous year, killing and injuring 407 civilians.

"Afghan civilians continue to suffer, caught in the conflict, in ways that are preventable; this must stop now," said Ingrid Hayden, the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan.

For the whole of 2017, the UN said 3,438 civilians were killed and 7,015 others injured. It was the fourth year in a row with more than 10,000 civilian casualties.

The UN figures are considered a conservative estimate because they need at least three independent sources to officially register a case.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Afghan District Governor Among Those Killed In Taliban Attack

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the check post in Khawaja Omari district of Ghazni province on April 12.

Taliban militants have launched an attack on a district government compound in southeastern Afghanistan, killing more than a dozen people including the local governor, officials say.

Provincial officials said on April 12 that the governor, police, and intelligence officers were among those killed in the overnight raid on the Khwaja Omari district headquarters in Ghazni Province.

Deputy provincial police chief Ramazan Ali Mohsini said 25 Taliban fighters were also killed in the gunbattle that started late on April 11 and lasted into the morning.

"The attack is over and the district is under the control of Afghan security forces after reinforcement forces rushed to the scene," Mohsini said.

A member of the provincial council, Ghulam Sakhi Amar, said the attackers torched the district governor's office building after removing weapons and other equipment.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the raid, saying more than 20 members of Afghan security forces were killed and several others wounded. It said three militants also died and four others were wounded.

The assault comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Bomb Attack Kills At Least Six In Western Afghanistan

FILE: An Afghan police officer stands guard outside a Shi'ite mosque after a suicide bomb attack in Herat on March 25

Reports from Afghanistan say at least six civilians have been killed by a bomb attack near a mosque and a bazaar in western Herat Province.

Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat’s provincial governor, said the dead included four children – two girls and two boys.

Farhad said nine other children were injured by the attack in the town of Shindand at the northern end of the Zerkoh Valley.

He said explosives were placed in an unattended motorbike and detonated by remote control.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The town of Shindand is about 11 kilometers southwest of Shindand air base, a strategic facility used by Afghanistan’s air force and troops from NATO’s training and assistance mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support.

The town is about 110 kilometers from the border with Iran.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

Turkey Deports Hundreds Of Afghan Migrants

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (left) speaks next to Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah during a press conference at Sapedar palace in Kabul on April 8.

Turkey says it is deporting hundreds of Afghans back to Afghanistan, in a major operation after thousands of them allegedly illegally entered the country in recent weeks.

On April 8, 227 Afghan migrants boarded a charter flight from the northeastern city of Erzurum to Kabul, Turkish news agencies reported.

They said an additional more than 400 Afghans were set for deportation in the coming days.

Migration officials in Erzurum were quoted as saying that the authorities planned to deport all 3,000 Afghan migrants who are currently in the city.

In Kabul, a spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations insisted that they were coming back home of their own will.

"They are the ones who wanted to use Turkey as a transit route to other countries, but when they failed they decided to come back," Islamuddin Jurat said.

During a visit to Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on April 8 that Ankara was grateful for Afghanistan's cooperation over the matter.

"There is no problem here," Turkish state media quoted Yildirim as saying at a news conference with Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

Turkey is a key transit route for migrants from Afghanistan and other countries in Asia and the Middle East seeking to reach Europe in search of better lives and work.

Turkish media have reported that several thousand migrants from war-plagued Afghanistan had crossed into Turkey in recent weeks. They were believed to have crossed from Iran into Turkey and then walked for days from the border to reach Erzurum.

Rights groups have criticized Ankara for deporting migrants back to conflict-torn countries such as Afghanistan, saying it was putting their lives at risk.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and Reuters

Islamic State Local Commander 'Killed In Afghan Air Strikes'

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) troops keep watch at a check point in Aqcha district of Jawzjan province.

A local commander of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has been killed by Afghan security forces in the northern province of Jawzjan, Afghan officials say.

Provincial police chief Faqeer Mohammad Jawzjani said on April 7 that the IS commander, Qari Hekmat, was killed by Afghan forces’ air strikes on April 5.

The official told RFE/RL that Hekmat was killed along with his bodyguard and two other militants in Jawzjan’s Darzab district.

Jawzjani said the government forces continue a military operation to clear out the area from IS militants.

Afghan officials earlier said that IS militants in Jawzjan appointed Mawlawi Habib-ur-Rehman, an IS fighter from the northern province of Balkh, as the extremist group’s new local commander.

IS militants have a presence in several Afghan districts, mostly in the country’s east near the Pakistani border, but also in some northern provinces, like Jawzjan and Kunduz.

IS doesn’t fully control any Afghan district, and it fights both the Afghan government forces and the Taliban for territorial control.

IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly suicide attacks in the capital, Kabul, and other cities, including Herat and Jalalabad.

Schools To Reopen In Afghan District After Deal Reached With Taliban

FILE: A girls school in Afghanistan's Logar province.

Dozens of public schools that were shut down by the Taliban in an area under its control south of Kabul are set to reopen after a deal was reached with the militant group, an Afghan official says.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar, said that classes “are expected to resume in the afternoon on April 7 or April 8” in at least 30 schools in the province’s Charkh district after a week-long interruption.

The Taliban closed the schools on March 31 after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh told RFE/RL on April 7 that the deal to reopen the school was reached after negotiations between the Taliban and tribal elders in the area.

The official had previously said that authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in Charkh in an attempt to secure the schools’ reopening.

Saleh said the Taliban’s move left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

With reporting by tolonews.com and pajwok.com

Afghan Taliban Closes 30 Schools After Militant Commander Killed

FILE: Girls students in a school in Afghanistan's Logar province

The Taliban has closed at least 30 schools in an area under its control south of Kabul after a local militant commander was killed by government forces, Afghan officials say.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for Logar Province's governor, said on April 6 that the Taliban closed the schools in the province's Charkh district after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces earlier this week.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan National Army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh said the Taliban move had left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

Saleh said that the authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in the area in an attempt to secure the schools' reopening in the coming days.

Hasibullah Stanekzai, the head of the Logar Provincial Council, said that the militants had warned Charkh elders to avoid meeting government officials to discuss reopening schools.

The schools have been closed since March 31.

Based on reporting by Tolo News and Pajhwok

Six Afghan Soldiers Wounded In Kabul Bomb Attack

According to a Kabul police spokesperson, the blast was caused by a roadside bomb.

KABUL -- Six Afghan soldiers have been slightly wounded in a bomb attack in the capital, the Defense Ministry says.

The ministry said in a statement that two magnetic bombs placed on a power transmission tower exploded in Kabul on April 4 when members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) were passing by.

Earlier, officials at the Ministry of Public Health said three people had been transferred to hospital for treatment following the attack, which took place near a Defense Ministry building.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

On March 21, a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul killed at least 29 people, as people in the capital celebrated the new year holiday Norouz.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

With reporting by Khaama Press

More Than 50 Afghan Schoolgirls Hospitalized For Suspected Poisoning

An Afghan school girl receives medical treatment at a local hospital after being admitted for symptoms of poisoning. (illustrative photo from a previous Afghan poisoning incident in May 2017), in Herat, September 3, 2015

Dozens of schoolgirls have been sickened at a high school in the southern Afghan province of Helmand in what officials suspect is a case of group poisoning.

Dawood Shah Safari, head of the provincial education department, told RFE/RL that a total of 52 girls were transferred on April 2 to a hospital in Helmand Province’s capital, Lashkar Gah.

Dr. Nisar Ahmad Barak said the girls were admitted at his hospital with headaches and vomiting, adding that they were now in stable condition and receiving treatment.

It was not clear what type of poisoning may have been involved in the incident.

The girls were said to be from 10th and 11th grade at Lashkar Gah's Central Girls School.

Police said officers and experts had been dispatched to the area to investigate the incident.

Most of Helmand Province is under the control of the Taliban who oppose the education of girls.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AP and Pajhwok

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