October 8, 2013 in Nation/World

Attack on Pakistani polio workers kills two

Zulfiqar Ali And Mark Magnier Los Angeles Times

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A bomb exploded near a government health center Monday in northwestern Pakistan as anti-polio kits were being distributed, killing two people and wounding at least 12, Pakistani officials said.

The explosion in a suburb of Peshawar, the capital of restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near the Afghan border, was apparently detonated by remote control. It was the latest in a series of attacks on polio workers in Pakistan.

A policeman and a volunteer peace committee member were killed in the blast, which appeared to target police assigned to protect vaccinators shortly before they headed into nearby neighborhoods to administer the polio vaccine, authorities said. The wounded, including seven policemen and five civilians, were taken to Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar’s largest.

Dr. Kalim Ullah Khan, assistant director of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s immunization program, said Monday was the final day of a three-day vaccination campaign involving some 10,000 children. That day’s immunizations were put on hold temporarily because of the killings.

“There’s a lot of fear everywhere,” Khan said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries worldwide, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still considered endemic. Eight new cases of the wild polio virus were reported here last week, one from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and seven from the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bringing the total number of cases this year to 36, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private health program.

No one took immediate responsibility for the attack, although the Taliban is suspected. Efforts to stem the disease – long eradicated in the Americas – have been hampered by attacks on health care workers after the Taliban condemned vaccination as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

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