A child gets the polio vaccine administered from a health worker in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 June 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/SHAHZAIB AKBER

2 police officers killed in attack on polio vaccination team in Pakistan

Islamabad, Aug 1 (EFE).- Two police officers escorting a anti-polio vaccination team were killed on Tuesday in an armed attack in southern Pakistan, even as the authorities are carrying out an= mass immunization campaign against the disease in one of the only two countries where it remains endemic.

Police escort health workers as they administers polio vaccine to children in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 March 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/SHAHZAIB AKBER

“Unidentified gunmen opened fire killing two policemen who were guarding a polio vaccination team” in a neighborhood of Quetta – a city in the southern state of Balochistan – Asif Marwat, the station house officer of Zarghoonabad police station, told EFE.

He said that the assailants fled the area after the attack and the police have launched an investigation.

The incident took place on the first day of a seven-day vaccination campaign in more than 50 districts across the country, aiming to inoculate 7.89 million children below the age of 5, according to the government polio eradication program.

This year, Pakistan has so far only reported one case of poliomyelitis, compared to around 20 reported in 2022.

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only countries where polio still exists, and in both countries, armed Islamist groups regularly attack polio vaccination teams and police escorting them, claiming the drive is part of a Western or anti-Islamic conspiracy to curb the birth-rate of Muslims by causing infertility.

Three police officers were wounded on May 25 in a similar attack against a vaccination team in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Such attacks increased after the American spy agency CIA ran a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign to hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan. EFE