TEHRAN: Iran has announced more than 100 arrests across the country over the mysterious poisonings of thousands of schoolgirls, alleging that the unidentified alleged perpetrators may have ties to “hostile” groups.
In a spate of cases since late November, schoolgirls have suffered fainting, nausea, shortness of breath and other symptoms after reporting “unpleasant” odors on school premises, and some are being treated in hospital.
State media reported late Saturday that the Interior Ministry had announced the arrests in connection with suspected poison attacks at more than 200 schools that have sparked fear and anger among students and their parents.
“More than 100 people who were responsible for recent school incidents have been identified, arrested and investigated,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency. IRNA.
“Among those arrested are people with hostile motives and with the aim of instilling terror among people and students and closing schools.”
The ministry added that “fortunately, from the middle of last week until today, the number of incidents in schools has significantly decreased, and there are no reports of sick students.”
The statement pointed to possible links to the Albania-based Iranian opposition group, which Tehran considers a “terrorist” organization, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, or Mujahideen-e-Qalq (MEK).
“The investigation of these criminals, including the discovery of their possible connection with terrorist organizations such as MEK and others, is ongoing,” they said. IRNA.
The poisonings began two months after protests swept Iran following the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd, who was arrested for allegedly violating strict dress codes for women.
Iran has blamed those protests, which it commonly labels “riots,” on hostile forces abroad linked to its archenemies the United States, Israel and their allies.
More than 5,000 students have been affected in approximately 230 schools in 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces, according to the latest official report.
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The ministry said arrests were made in the provinces of Tehran, Qom and Gilan in the north, Razavi Khorasan in the northeast, West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Zanjan in the northwest, Kurdistan and Hamadan in the west, Khuzestan in the southwest and Fars in the south.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last Monday called for the perpetrators of the “unforgivable crime” to be found “without mercy”.