PESHAWAR: Gunmen shot dead a polio worker and two policemen on duty to protect a polio vaccination team in two separate attacks in Pakistan’s troubled northwest yesterday, police and a doctor said.
The shootings were the latest in a series of attacks by militants targeting polio teams following the imposition of an official ban by the Taliban last year, who see inoculation campaigns as a cover for espionage. The first incident took place when two policemen riding a motorbike were attacked by at least four gunmen as they left Swabi town for Topi in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police narrated.
“The gunmen opened fire on the policemen. One of the policemen was killed on spot while second died in the hospital,” senior local police official Muhammad Sajjad Khan said, adding that the gunmen managed to flee after the attack.
The pair had been deputed on security duty for an ongoing polio vaccination campaign in the area, he said.
In a separate attack yesterday, gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on a polio worker near his home in the Jamrud area of the Khyber tribal district, killing him on the spot. Mohammad Yousuf was standing at the corner of his street after vaccinating children in Jamrud, doctor Sameen Jan, a senior health official in Khyber, said. Two intelligence officials in Peshawar, the region’s main city, confirmed both incidents, which brings the death toll to at least 28 since the June 2012 ban.
The attacks come despite a recent fatwa by a prominent Pakistani religious scholar, known as the “Father of the Taliban,” who urged parents to immunise their children against polio and other life-threatening diseases and said vaccinations were compliant with Sharia.