Gunmen kill vaccinator in NW Pakistan

December 28, 2013 - 11:50:22 am

PESHAWAR: Gunmen shot dead a health officer supervising an anti-polio vaccination campaign after storming a hospital where children were being immunised in Pakistan's troubled northwest Saturday, officials said. 

Two other hospital staff were injured in the attack at a government-run hospital in the town of Mattani, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, but Taliban militants have been targeting health workers and security personnel during vaccination campaigns.

"Two men riding a motorbike stormed the office of an immunisation officer located inside the premises of Civil Hospital Mattani and shot him dead," senior police official Ijaz Khan told AFP. 

"Two other local staff of the hospital including a woman were injured in the attack," he added.

Khan said the gunmen fled on the motorbike soon after the shooting.

Provincial health minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Shaukat Ali, confirmed the attack. 

"Routine immunisation of children was going on in the hospital at the time of the attack," he said. 

The Taliban imposed a ban on polio vaccinations last year as they view inoculation campaigns as a cover for espionage.

But prominent Pakistani religious scholar, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, known as the "Father of the Taliban", has urged parents to immunise their children against polio and other life-threatening diseases, saying that vaccinations were compliant with Sharia.

Last year the Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage.

Eradication efforts have also suffered due to long-standing rumours that the vaccine was part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio remains endemic and efforts to stamp it out have been badly affected by attacks on health workers inoculating children. Polio is also endemic in Afghanistan and Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organization, Pakistan recorded 72 cases of polio this year compared with 58 in 2012.

New Delhi last week announced it would require citizens from Pakistan and other polio-affected nations travelling to India to take a mandatory vaccination for the disease at least six weeks prior to their departure. (AFP)