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Gunmen attack anti-polio team in Pakistan, 3 killed

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Peshawar, Jun 28: Three people, including two policemen, escorting an anti-polio vaccination team, were killed when unidentified assailants attacked them in Pakistan’s restive north Waziristan tribal district on Tuesday, police said.

The gunmen attacked the team, killing one of its members and two policemen escorting them, while it was on a door-to door anti-polio vaccination drive after nine new cases were reported this year in the district that borders Afghanistan.

Gunmen attack anti-polio team in Pakistan, 3 killed

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The incident was condemned by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan. The chief minister has asked the police chief for the early arrest of those behind the attack.

“The attackers on polio teams are enemies of our children,” a statement issued by the Deputy Commissioner of North Waziristan Shahid Ali Khan said. “The accused will be brought to book soon. The KPK government is determined to eliminate polio from the province come what may,” the statement said. Attacks on workers of the anti-polio vaccination drives in Pakistan have increased in recent times.

In March this year, gunmen in northwestern Pakistan shot and killed a female polio worker as she was returning home after taking part in the country's latest anti-polio campaign. In January last year, armed gunmen shot dead a police officer guarding a team of polio vaccine handlers in northwestern Pakistan. Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, remains the last polio-endemic countries in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.

Recently, Pakistan’s vaccination programme has come under scrutiny after the detection of poliovirus in sewage samples in London for the first time in four decades. Health authorities in Islamabad claim the “vaccine-derived virus” found in the UK exists in 22 countries and the type found locally was the wild poliovirus (WPV). Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme National Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig told the Dawn newspaper on Thursday that it was too early to say the virus had travelled from Pakistan, as UK authorities were yet to announce the results of genome sequencing.

Pakistan in May this year launched a nationwide anti-polio drive to vaccinate more than 43 million children after the cases of the crippling virus surfaced in the country. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif inaugurated the second polio campaign of the year 2022 at the Prime Minister’s house and assured that the government would take all measures to eradicate the crippling disease.

PTI

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