Asia News

Gunmen kill seven police officers protecting polio teams in Pakistan

At least seven people were killed after gunmen opened fire at police guarding polio vaccination teams in Karachi’s Orangi Town.

At least seven people were killed after gunmen opened fire at police guarding polio vaccination teams in Karachi’s Orangi Town on Wednesday.

Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on police officers on foot in the Bangla Bazaar area and on a police vehicle deployed for the security of polio vaccination officials, DawnNews reported.

The attacks took place within 600 m (650 yards) of each other, senior police official Ali Asif told Express Tribune.

“Eight armed were involved in the attack. Three policemen were killed on the spot, while four others were then targeted in their mobile [vehicle],” said Sindh Home Minister Anwer Sial, The Express Tribune reports.

Eyewitnesses said four motorbikes and eight gunmen were involved in the attack, according to The Nation.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, The Guardian reports. Spokesperson Qari Saifullah Saif, said the attack was in retaliation for the alleged killing of their colleagues by police.

According to NBC News, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group has separately claimed responsibility.

A four-day polio vaccination drive began on Monday. Polio workers called off the vaccination drive following the attacks.

Polio workers in Pakistan have been targeted by militants in recent years and routinely travel with armed guards. Islamist groups say polio vaccination is a Western conspiracy to sterilize Pakistani children.

A suicide bomb explosion targeting polio workers and their police escorts in Quetta killed at least 15 people in January.

Islamist mistrust of inoculation campaigns intensified after U.S. intelligence agents used a fake vaccination program in their hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. They aimed to collect DNA samples from his relatives to track him down in Abbottabad, where he was ultimately killed by U.S. special forces.

The World Health Organisation says Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries where polio is endemic, although outbreaks in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have been reported in recent years.

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, spread from person to person. Polio can cause paralysis and permanent disability but it is easily prevented with the vaccine.

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