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Polio vaccination workers shot dead

Militants launch cooridanted attacks in different parts of Karachi

Image Credit: REUTERS
Amtiaz Khan (C), brother of Nasima Bibi, a female worker of an anti-polio drive campaign who was shot by gunmen, comforts other relatives at a hospital morgue in Karachi December 18, 2012. Gunmen shot five health workers on the anti-polio drive in a string of attacks in Pakistan on Tuesday, officials said, raising fears for the safety of workers immunizing children against the crippling disease.
Gulf News

Karachi: The Sindh government on Tuesday called off its polio vaccination campaign after unknown militants launched coordinated attacks on the vaccination teams at three different parts of the city shooting four women dead and leaving two men injured.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but in the recent past, Taliban declared their anger against polio vaccination in South and North Waziristan and carried out attacks on the vaccination groups.

The attacks were carried simultaneously at the Gulshane Bunair Landhi, the eastern outskirts, Orangi Town and Baldia Towns in the western part of the city.

Senior Superintendent of police and police spokesman Imran Shaukat told Gulf News that all the three attacks were carried at around noon.

“It was very sad and very unfortunate,” the police officer said.

Two men who were critically injured are under treatment at hospitals.

Media reports said a 14-year girl who was volunteering for the campaign in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw, was also shot dead by unknown gunmen riding on a motorcycle.

However, it was not clear whether the girl was killed for volunteering or due to personal enmity, though her parents ruled personal reasons.

On Monday, unknown gunmen shot dead Omar Farouq, a polio vaccine volunteer, in Soharb Goth area, the northern outskirt of the city.

“It is impossible to continue the campaign after four of our women workers are martyred,” Dr Saghir Ahmad, the provincial health minister told Gulf News

The minister expressed his deep concerns over the incident and added “the incident is highly deplorable and it was really a shameful incident”.

He did not directly say who the attackers were.

“They are the people who have a peculiar and closed mindset and they sabotaged this vital campaign which ensures eradication of this menace,” Ahmad sadly said.

The health authorities did not give the figures of how many children would be affected due to the campaign being called off.

“The attacks can only be stopped by changing the mindsets of the people who are carrying it out,” the minister said and added: “It was unfortunate and we don’t know when we would re-launch the campaign.”

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an influential Taliban commander in the North Waziristan tribal agency, in July this year imposed a ban on polio vaccinations, prompting Taliban leaders in South Waziristan and other tribal areas to follow it.

The ban came as the Taliban believed that the campaign was a spying mission under the pretext of eradicating the disease.