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Home World News Washington Post World News Attackers injured 5 Pakistani police officers guarding polio workers

Attackers injured 5 Pakistani police officers guarding polio workers

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Attackers armed with rifles and hand grenades ambushed a police van assigned to guard polio workers in northwest Pakistan, injuring five police officers, authorities said.

According to local police chief Aman Ullah, police returned fire after being attacked near a bridge in Dera Ismail Khan, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The police chief, who traveled with the convoy to a nearby vaccination site, said six to eight suspected militants ambushed them, opened fire and threw hand grenades at the police van.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamist militants often target polio squads and the police protecting them, falsely claiming that the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children. The latest anti-polio campaign started this week, the first in 2023.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ response, said it was not the first time health workers and people trying to administer polio vaccines have been attacked in Pakistan and other countries.

“Sometimes we face a situation where you really run out of words, but it’s despicable to attack and assault people who go out in communities, in extremely difficult circumstances, trying to protect babies’ and babies’ lives from a preventable disease that has been nearly eradicated, except for a handful of countries,” he said.

All too often, Dujarric said, these attacks are the result of “a security situation where people are actively working against healthcare workers.”

In late November, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers in the southwestern city of Quetta. A police officer in the truck was killed, as were three members of a family riding in another car alongside the truck.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the November 30 attack. A month earlier, in October, gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a police officer assigned to guard a polio vaccination team in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Pakistan, which, together with neighboring Afghanistan, is the only country where polio remains endemic, regularly launches vaccination campaigns. The latest five-day campaign started this week in northwest Pakistan and is the first in 2023.

Since last April, Pakistan has recorded 20 new cases of polio – all in the northwest, where parents often refuse to vaccinate children. The outbreak has been a blow to government efforts to eradicate the disease.



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