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Gunmen Kill 2 Pakistani Policemen Guarding Polio Vaccinators

Unknown gunmen killed two police officers in southwestern Pakistan in an attack Tuesday on polio vaccinators.

The deadly shooting occurred during a national immunization campaign in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.

Area police officer Asif Marwat said that health workers were administering polio doses to children in the Nawa Killi area when two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on them and fled the scene.

The shooting left two police guards dead, but the polio vaccinators escaped unhurt, Marwat said. He added that the polio campaign in the area had been suspended.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the deadly shooting, but militant attacks against polio teams are not uncommon in Pakistan. The violence has killed scores of health workers and security forces escorting them.

Pakistan launched the latest polio vaccination drive Tuesday to eradicate the highly contagious virus in the country.

A polio program spokesperson told VOA the weeklong campaign aims to immunize nearly 8 million children under five across 61 districts, including those in Baluchistan. He said the government had deployed around 65,000 “front-line workers” to administer polio drops to the targeted population.

In conservative Pakistani rural areas, hardline religious groups have long opposed and viewed polio inoculation campaigns as a ploy to leave Muslim children infertile. Anti-state militants operating in Baluchistan and elsewhere in the country view polio vaccinators as government spies.

The propaganda against the vaccine and the deadly militant attacks have set back Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.

The South Asian country of about 230 million people has detected only one case of polio paralysis in a child so far in 2023 compared to 20 victims last year.

The highly contagious virus used to paralyze thousands of children annually in Pakistan until the 1990s when authorities launched internationally supported nationwide vaccination campaigns.

Source : VOA News