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Six Polio-Campaign Workers Killed In Pakistan

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Officials in Pakistan say six health workers have been killed at the start of a polio vaccination campaign, prompting a suspension of the program in the area around the country's biggest city, Karachi.

Officials said four of the workers were shot dead on December 18 in Karachi, while a fifth was shot dead in the city the previous day.

A sixth worker was also reported shot dead on December 18 in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Five of the dead were women.

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.


Rukhsana Bibi (center) weeps in an ambulance outside Jinnah Hospital in Karachi on December 18, next to the body of her slain daughter Madiha, who worked for an antipolio campaign.

Rukhsana Bibi (center) weeps in an ambulance outside Jinnah Hospital in Karachi on December 18, next to the body of her slain daughter Madiha, who worked for an antipolio campaign.



'Infidel' Campaign

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, dpa, and AP

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