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Polio Wars: Pakistani gunman shoots dead policeman protecting team of UN female vaccine workers

  • Policeman was protecting team of female polio workers in Pakistan
  • Another police officer was wounded in the attack 
  • Group were working in Mardan as part of UN-backed vaccination programme
  • Islamic militants suspected to be behind the attack
  • Opponents of scheme claim it is intended to make Muslim children sterile
  • Attack comes after nine polio workers shot in Pakistan in December

Kerry McDermott
Mail Online

A policeman has been shot dead while protecting a team of female polio workers in Pakistan, in the latest in a series of attacks on people connected to a UN-backed vaccination programme.

Recent months have seen a spate of deadly attacks on aid workers linked to the scheme – which has been condemned by some Islamic groups who claim it is intended to sterilise Muslim children – in Pakistan and in northern Nigeria.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province today, but suspicion has fallen on Islamic militants.

Polio: The UN-backed vaccination programme has been condemned by some Islamic militants who claim it is intended to make Muslim children sterile (file photo)

In January seven female aid workers and a male doctor were shot dead while working for an agency vaccinating children against polio in Pakistan. The Taliban – whose leaders had repeatedly denounced the vaccination programme – denied involvement in the attacks.

The next month nine female health workers were shot in northern Nigeria in two attacks around 30 minutes apart.

The shootings in Nigeria were blamed on Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. Health workers have made progress in combatting the disease in recent years, but the attacks threaten to reverse that progress. 

Some opponents to the vaccination campaign have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claimed the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

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