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India principal arrested in deaths of 23 children

by INDRAJIT SINGH Associated Press on July 24, 2013 10:10 AM

PATNA, India — The principal of a primary school in eastern India where 23 children died last week after eating lunch prepared with contaminated oil was arrested today, nine days after she went into hiding, police said.

Meena Kumari fled as soon as the children began falling ill after eating the lunch cooked at the school in Bihar state. Twenty-three children between the ages of 5 and 12 died after eating the meal and many others fell ill.

Forensic tests have revealed that the lunch contained toxic levels of a deadly pesticide.

A police team investigating the deaths arrested Kumari today, and authorities were questioning her to establish how the pesticide got mixed with the food, said police superintendent Sujit Kumar.

Bihar’s education minister, P.K. Sahi, has said the principal bought the ingredients for the meal from a shop owned by her husband, who has fled.

The school’s cooks have told authorities that the principal controlled the food for the government-provided free daily lunch.

One of the cooks said that the cooking oil appeared different than usual, but that the principal told her to use it anyway.

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