Iran president acts over mystery schoolgirl poisonings

TEHRAN    -    Iran’s president stepped in after more than 100 students were hospitalised Wednesday, the latest in a spate of poisonings at girls’ schools that has gripped the country.

The president’s website said Ebra­him Raisi had assigned Interior Minis­ter Ahmad Vahidi to provide “continu­ous information on the results of the investigation” into the attacks.

Hundreds of cases of respiratory dis­tress have been reported in the past three months among schoolgirls in what one government official said could be an at­tempt to force the closure of girls’ schools in the Islamic republic. At least 10 girls’ schools were targeted in the latest sus­pected attacks on Wednesday, seven in the northwestern city of Ardabil and three in the capital, media reports said.

The incidents in Ardabil forced the hospitalisation of 108 students, all of whom were in stable condition, said Tasnim news agency, which also report­ed poisonings at three schools in Tehran.

Citing parents, Fars news agency said students at one high school in the cap­ital’s western neighbourhood of Teh­ransar had been exposed to a toxic spray. President Raisi’s website said he had appointed Vahidi in an effort to “al­lay the concerns of the families” of the students affected. Vahidi held a press conference at which he debunked ear­lier reports from Fars on Wednesday that security forces had detained three people in the first reported arrests over the wave of suspected poisonings.

“There are various reports that are completely false,” he told journalists, also saying that reports of the detec­tion of a specific chemical substance being used in attacks were incorrect. Parliament’s website had said health ministry tests on a substance found at the schools in the holy city of Qom, where 800 students were affected, had detected traces of nitrogen, which is mainly used in fertilisers

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