Gunmen kill anti-polio official in hospital attack in Peshawar, Pakistan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:16am


Gunmen shot dead a health officer supervising an anti-polio vaccination campaign yesterday after storming a northwestern Pakistan hospital where children were being immunised.

Two other health staff were injured in the attack at a government-run hospital in the town of Mattani, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, but Taliban militants have been targeting health workers and security personnel during vaccination campaigns.

Senior police official Ijaz Khan said: "Two men riding a motorbike stormed the office of an immunisation officer located inside the premises of Civil Hospital Mattani and shot him dead.

"Two other local staff of the hospital including a woman were injured in the attack."

Khan said the gunmen fled on the motorbike soon after the shooting.

Provincial health minister of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Shaukat Ali, confirmed the death. "Routine immunisation of children was going on in the hospital at the time of the attack," he said.

The Taliban imposed a ban on polio vaccinations last year as they view inoculation campaigns as a cover for espionage. But prominent Pakistani religious scholar, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, known as the "Father of the Taliban", has urged parents to immunise their children against polio and other life-threatening diseases, saying that 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 sterilise Muslims. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

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 Organisation, Pakistan recorded 72 cases of polio this year compared with 58 last year.

The WHO also warned of the danger of a serious polio outbreak in the northwest, saying more than 240,000 children had missed vaccination because of the Taliban ban

New Delhi announced last week it would require citizens from Pakistan and other polioaffected nations travelling to India to take a mandatory vaccination for the disease at least six weeks before their departure.