Five Polio-Campaign Volunteers Killed In Pakistan
December 18, 2012
by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
Five polio vaccination workers in Pakistan have been shot dead in the past day and a half, prompting a suspension of the program in the area around the country's biggest city, Karachi.
Karachi police official Amanullah Marwat told RFE/RL that unknown attackers killed two female volunteers in the Gulshan Buner area of Karachi on December 18.
Police said another female volunteer was also killed in the Orangi Town area of Karachi and her male co-worker was wounded.
The UN said a fourth female polio campaign worker in the Karachi area was killed on December 17.
Sindh Province Health Minister Saghir Ahmad told RFE/RL the three-day polio-vaccination campaign in the province, which was in its second day, had been suspended.
The 24,000 workers taking part in the campaign there were told to cease their activities.
There are also reports of a woman involved in the polio-vaccination program being shot dead in the northwest town of Peshawar on December 18.
Senior police official Mohmand Khan said the attack happened in the Mathra suburb of Peshawar.
He said two attackers on a motorcycle fired on two young women working for the antipolio campaign, killing one of them.
All the victims in Karachi and Peshawar were Pakistanis.
Gul Naz Nighat, a health official in charge of the antipolio campaign in the area of Karachi where the health workers were shot, said two of the slain workers were 'my team workers.'
'One is Madiha, the other's name is Fehmida. I received information shortly before noon that someone had shot my team workers,' Nighat said.
'I checked with one team and they said it had not happened to them. Then I called this team who had fallen victim to this incident and no one was receiving my call.'
Nighat said anonymous callers had called and warned health workers would be punished for helping the 'infidel' campaign.
The Taliban has spoken out against the polio-vaccination campaign for months, claiming the campaign was a cover for spies working for the United States and that the vaccine itself causes harm to people.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.
The death of a female vaccination worker in Afghanistan on December 1 recently sparked fears that immunizers there were being targeted by the Taliban, although an attack by militants was just one of the possible scenarios that investigators were looking into.
Violence In North
Elsewhere in Pakistan, two assailants on a motorcycle reportedly threw hand grenades at the main gate of a Pakistani military base in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, wounding at least 10 people.
Senior police official Ghulam Muhammad said the attack on December 18 happened in the garrison town of Risalpur and the injured were civilians and security personnel.
Tehrik-e Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan called RFE/RL to claim responsibility for the attack.
The area has seen a surge in violence in recent days.
On December 16, an attack on an air base in the same province left four people dead.
The following day, a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in the northwestern town of Jamrud that killed 21 people.
With additional reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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