An extremist killed at least three people and wounded 30 others on Wednesday after a terrorist attack on a police escort of a polio vaccination team in southwest Pakistan. The episode was claimed by an organization linked to the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group that governs Afghanistan.
According to Pakistani authorities, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a police truck near the city of Quetta, capital of Balochistan province. After the explosion, the vehicle would still have fallen into a ravine. The victims included a police officer, a woman and a child, and some of the injured were in critical condition, a police officer told Reuters news agency.
Islamist militants in Pakistan frequently target polio vaccination teams. The groups claim that the immunization campaign is a Western tool to spy on them and make Muslim children infertile. Other theories claim that the vaccines contain pork fat and are therefore off-limits to Muslims.
Also weighing against vaccination campaigns in the country is a 2011 operation by the CIA, the US intelligence agency. At the time, the US government organized a fake vaccination program in the city where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding. The action was aimed at obtaining DNA from the terrorist’s family.
At the time, the Americans recruited a Pakistani doctor, who organized the campaign in one of the poorest areas of the city of Abbottabad. In the same year, the US managed to find bin Laden’s hideout and killed him. The health professional was arrested by the Pakistani intelligence agency.
According to local media, more than 70 polio vaccinators have been killed since 2012 in the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has a strong presence.
The current vaccination campaign in the Asian country began last Monday (28) and aims to vaccinate more than 13 million children against polio. In April, Pakistan registered the first case of the disease in 15 months and since then, 20 new cases have been detected. Very contagious, poliomyelitis is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis.
The country’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, condemned the attack and said his government would continue with the vaccination campaign.
Also on Monday, the TTP suspended a shaky ceasefire agreement struck with the government in June and ordered its fighters to resume attacks across the country. This Wednesday’s attack was carried out, according to the extremists, to “avenge the death” of a senior commander and founder of the group who died in August.
At the same time, the Pakistani Army said it had killed ten terrorists in Balochistan on Tuesday (29), but did not give details about the operation or which group the militiamen belonged to.
While Pakistan maintained relations with the Afghan Taliban during the long insurgency to drive Western forces out of Afghanistan, the country has fought the TTP on its own borders for years. The extremist group wants to overthrow the government of Pakistan to replace it with a system with its own interpretation of Islamic law, along the lines of what happens in Kabul.
Since the Afghan Taliban returned to power, the TTP has intensified its actions in Pakistan. According to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, attacks have increased by 50% since then and have killed 433 people. In less than a decade, the organization has killed tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and police.
With a wealth of experience honed over 4+ years in journalism, I bring a seasoned voice to the world of news. Currently, I work as a freelance writer and editor, always seeking new opportunities to tell compelling stories in the field of world news.