Pakistan: Bomb kills 2 anti-polio workers

2013-01-31 12:01
Pakistani volunteers move the body of bombing victim to a mortuary in Karachi, Pakistan. (Fareed Khan, AP)

Pakistani volunteers move the body of bombing victim to a mortuary in Karachi, Pakistan. (Fareed Khan, AP)

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Islamabad - A roadside bomb killed two polio vaccination workers in north-western Pakistan's Kurram tribal region on Thursday, officials said, amid a wave of deadly attacks aimed at health teams.

The remote-control blast struck the men riding a motorcycle as they travelled to a health centre in Malikhel, a village located about 12km south of Kurram's main town Parachinar, a spokesperson for the immunisation programme said.

"One of the dead is a health department staffer while the other is a volunteer," Shoaib Babar said. "Both workers were taking part in a 'catch-up' effort to administer vaccine to children left out in the three-day campaign that ended [on] Wednesday."

Pakistan's tribal territory near the Afghan border has a relatively high incidence of the polio virus, and it is difficult for health teams to carry out immunisation in the region because of the volatile security situation.

The blast followed Tuesday's gun attack on a team of vaccinators in Swabi, a district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders the restive tribal region. The health workers were unhurt but a policeman guarding them was fatally shot.

Last month, nine health workers taking part in the UN-backed campaign to eradicate the virus from Pakistan were killed in different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as the country's southern port city of Karachi.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but suspicion fell on Taliban militants, who earlier opposed the inoculation drive over allegations that it was being used by the United States as a cover for espionage.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world where the polio virus still exists.

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