Pakistani policeman and train passengers killed in separate bombing attacks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 8:51pm

A bomb killed at least one policeman and wounded another during a vaccination campaign for polio and other diseases among children in Pakistan’s troubled northwest on Sunday, officials said.

In a separate attack, a bomb targeting a passenger train in southern Pakistan killed at least seven people and wounded more than 30 on Sunday, officials said

The first incident happened in Budhni area on the outskirts of Peshawar, the gateway to the country’s restive tribal regions, where the military has been battling Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants.

“The police team was being deployed in Budhni area before the start of the campaign when a remote controlled bomb exploded near their van, killing one police official and wounding another one,” local senior administration official Zaheer-ul-Islam said.

A senior local police official, Faisal Mukhtar, confirmed the incident and casualties.

Militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long-running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

More than 40 people including health workers and police officials providing security to the teams administering polio drops to children have been killed in Pakistan in different incidents of violence since December 2012.

The latest campaign, which started early this month, will continue until April. It sees vaccinators go door-to-door every Sunday across Peshawar to administer drops to children for various diseases including polio, tuberculosis, tetanus, whooping cough, measles and hepatitis.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organisation, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the Pakistani city of Peshawar was the world’s “largest reservoir” of polio.

Pakistan’s failure to defeat polio stands in stark contrast to its neighbour and great rival India, which recently celebrated the eradication of polio three years after its last case.

The bomb targeting the passenger train went off near Unar station, 450 kilometres northwest of Karachi, and badly damaged several carriages.

“The death toll in the explosion rose to seven after two injured persons died of their wounds in a hospital in Jacobabad town,” a senior local administration official, Sardar Jamali, said.

He said the Khushhal Khan Khattak express was travelling to Peshawar from Karachi when it was hit by the blast, which injured more than 30 people and damaged hundreds of metres of track.

Pakistan has endured a bloody start to the year with 114 people killed in attacks in January, according to an AFP tally.

On January 29 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced talks with the Pakistani Taliban to “give peace another chance”, but some 60 more people have died in Islamist-linked violence since then.

Three carriages were derailed on Sunday and two of them were severely damaged by the force of the explosion.

A senior railways official Sikandar Lashari confirmed the toll of the bombing, for which there has been no claim of responsibility.

Jamali said the bomb was likely an improvised explosive device. The general manager of Pakistan Railways, Anjum Parvaiz, suggested it was a remote-controlled device planted on the track.

Parvaiz said 800 metres of track had been damaged.

A bomb in one of the compartments of a train on the same route last month killed three people and wounded 20 in the central town of Rajanpur in Punjab province.

Pakistan since July 2007 has been gripped by a local Taliban-led insurgency concentrated largely in the northwest.

The government says more than 40,000 people have been killed in violence since 2001, when Pakistan allied itself with the US-led “war on terror”.