PESHAWAR. (AFP) – Two gunmen shot dead a health worker administering polio drops and other vaccines to children in a restive Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Saturday, 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 told AFP.
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 Sharia.
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 sterlise Muslims.
Ansarul Mujahideen, a little-known 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 and efforts to stamp it out have been badly affected by attacks on health workers inoculating children. Polio is also endemic in Afghanistan and Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organization, Pakistan recorded 72 cases of polio this year compared with 58 in 2012.
New Delhi last week announced it would require citizens from Pakistan and other polio-affected nations travelling to India to take a mandatory vaccination for the disease at least six weeks prior to their departure.