Gunmen kill vaccinator in northwest Pakistan

December 22, 2013 - 9:01:50 am
PESHAWAR: Two gunmen shot dead a health worker administering polio drops and other vaccines to  children in a restive Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan yesterday, officials said.

The murder took place at a government-run dispensary in Jamrud town in the Khyber tribal district. The gunmen ordered women and children to leave before shooting dead the vacciNator, doctor Sameen Jan, the top health official in Khyber said.

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

A local administration official confirmed the incident and said that the assailants left a note on the body warning of dire consequences for anyone continuing to vaccinate children in Khyber.

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 Shariah. 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.

Ansarul Mujahideen, a militant group linked to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the umbrella Taliban faction in Pakistan, has threatened opposition leader and former cricket hero Imran Khan for criticising attacks on polio vaccination teams. 

Khan on Wednesday declared polio workers as soldiers of Islam and said those attacking them were not doing any justice to humanity, Islam or Pakistanis.

Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

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