23/05/2012 12:29 BST

'Taliban' Targets Schoolgirls In Afghanistan As Over 70 Pupils Poisoned In Toxic Powder Attack

More than 70 girls and their teachers have been poisoned at a school in Afghanistan, the BBC has reported.

A toxic powder was released in their classrooms while the girls were being taught at a school in the northern province of Takhar.

The schoolgirls, some of them as young as 10, felt dizzy, nauseous and developed headaches after the 'poisonous powder' was released into the air. Some of the girls fell unconscious and around 40 of them are still being treated in hospital, an official told the BBC.

Blood samples have now been sent to Kabul in an effort to determine what was used to poison the girls. However none of pupils or teachers are believed to be in a critical condition.

"They are more traumatized" Dr. Habibullah Rostaqi, Takhar's hospital director told CNN.

The number of pupils targeted in the malicious poisoning could be as many as 120 girls as well as their three teachers, reports Reuters.

Taliban insurgents are believed to be behind the attack, as the Islamist militant group does not believe that girls should be educated.

Police spokesperson Khalilullah Aseer said "now we are implementing democracy in Afghanistan and we want girls to be educated, but the government's enemies don't want this", according to the BBC.

Last month 100 girls were admitted to hospital after the water supply to another school in Takhar was poisoned in another suspected Taliban attack.

A spokesperson for the education department in the northern provice told Reuters that the water contamination was "either the work of those who are against girls' education or irresponsible armed individuals,"

Two weeks ago, headmaster Abdul Rahman was forced to shut down his school in eastern Afghanistan which teaches both girls and boys after he was threatened by Taliban insurgents, reports Reuters.

Many schools are being forced to shut down as parents fear for their children's safety, adds CNN.