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Girl stabs 37 pupils with needle

A 14-year-old girl has gone on a playground rampage with a hypodermic needle, stabbing 37 classmates, Puerto Rican officials said.

"She would stab one, run, stab another, run, like it was some sort of joke," Education Secretary Jesus Rivera Sanchez said about the attack on pupils aged between 12 and 14 at the Jose de Choudens middle school in the southern coastal town of Arroyo at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Health Department spokeswoman Margarita Casalduc said it was unclear if the syringe contained anything and further tests were needed to determine if it was contaminated. But the victims, accompanied by their shaken parents, gathered at a convention centre to be tested for HIV and hepatitis C and to be given preventive medications.

Mr Sanchez said counsellors also were helping the victims and their parents.

Social workers were interviewing the alleged attacker to try to determine a motive, Justice Department spokesman Fidel Rodriguez said. He said no charges had yet been filed, but officials said the girl had been suspended from school.

Mr Sanchez said the girl first told investigators she found the syringe, but later said she stole an unused one while visiting a relative at a hospital and had planned to pierce her ear with it.

He said it was not clear why she decided to attack her classmates.

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