"Gas Sickened Girls in Afghan Schools"

"KABUL, Afghanistan — Blood tests have confirmed that a mysterious series of cases of mass sickness at girls’ schools across the country over the last two years were caused by a powerful poison gas, an Afghan official said Tuesday.

The admission came in an interview, as a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health was answering questions about two new episodes in the last week. The spokesman, Dr. Kargar Norughli, said his ministry and the World Health Organization  had been testing the blood of victims in 10 mass sickenings and had confirmed the presence of toxic but not fatal levels of organophosphates. Those compounds are widely used in insecticides and herbicides, and are also the active ingredients of compounds developed as chemical weapons, including sarin and VX gas.

Dr. Norughli did not explain why the confirmations had not been announced earlier.

But he emphasized that how the gas was delivered — and even whether the poisonings were deliberate — remained a mystery. There have been no fatalities, and no one has claimed responsibility for the episodes."

Rod Nordland reports for the New York Times August 31, 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010