Fifteen people, including a deputy shadow Taliban governor and school teachers, were arrested by Afghanistan security officials in connection with the recent spate of school poisonings, officials said on Wednesday.
Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said that the NDS has proven documents that Taliban insurgents were working in cooperation with members of Pakistan's intelligence agency to poison school students in the northern Takhar province.
"Fifteen people including Taliban's shadowed deputy provincial governor, teachers, students and education department personnel were arrested by the NDS officials," Mashal said at a press conference.
Mashal accused Jandullah and Mahazulla fronts and the Taliban for the poisonings, saying that the real motivators behind these terrorist groups to commit such "inhuman acts" were the regional spy agencies.
"Because Taliban will have less credibility in the face of society, they don't claim responsibility, but we have proven documents showing this is the job of the insurgents. Jandullah and Mahazullah fronts and Taliban group are behind these poisonings," Mashal told reporters in a press conference today.
"Their aim is to promote fear among the people of Afghanistan; their main motivators are regional spy agencies."
The Taliban released an official statement on Wednesday responding to the claims, saying they were not responsible. It is the second statement the group has made in as many weeks. They threatened to punish any of their people found poisoning school students.
According to Mashal, two school girls are also among those arrested. He claimed one of them received 50,000 Afs from the Taliban to poison the water in her school.
Officials at the Ministry of Education said that they will not surrender to the aims of the insurgents and will continue their efforts to provide quality education for girls all over the country, particularly Takhar.
"The enemies of this country are trying to lead this country into darkness. We will take the candle of education in our hands and carry it all over the country," one official said.
Takhar schools have reported at least six cases of poisonings affecting hundreds of students since the middle of April. Two other cases have been reported in Ghazni and Khost provinces.