• Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ASIA

Taliban target immunisation drive near Afghan border

Paramedics transport an injured policeman at a hospital following a roadside bomb blast in Bajaur district, around 14 kms from the border with Afghanistan, on January 8, 2024. A roadside bomb killed at least five police officers deployed to protect polio vaccination workers in northwestern Pakistan on January 8, officials said, in an attack claimed by the domestic Taliban group. (Photo by Fazal RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by FAZAL RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Eastern Eye

A ROADSIDE bomb killed at least five police officers deployed to protect polio vaccination workers in northwestern Pakistan on Monday (8), officials said, in an attack that was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group.

The TTP said in a statement it had “successfully detonated a mine on a police” vehicle in Bajaur district, around nine miles from the Afghan border.

“A police truck transporting around 25 policemen for antipolio campaign duties was targeted by an IED (improvised explosive device),” Anwar ul Haq, a senior government official in Bajaur district, said.

He said five officers were killed and at least 20 others wounded.

Kashif Zulfiqar, a senior police officer in the district, confirmed the death toll from the attack, which occurred in the rural area of Mamund.

In its statement, the TTP said claims the attack was associated with the polio vaccination campaign were “entirely false”.

Islamist militants, including the TTP, have killed scores of polio vaccination workers and their security escorts over the years.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where the debilitating polio virus, which can cause lifelong disability, still remains endemic. Pakistan had six reported cases in 2023, and Monday (8) had marked the beginning of a nationwide drive to vaccinate millions of children.

Opposition to inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Firebrand clerics in the border region with Afghanistan have also spread misinformation that doses of the oral vaccine contain traces of pork and alcohol, which are forbidden by Islam.

Pakistani districts along the border with Afghanistan have seen a dramatic spike in attacks since the Taliban returned to power there in 2021.

Islamabad claims Kabul is sheltering allied militants such as the TTP – also known as the Pakistan Taliban – allowing them to strike on its soil which the Taliban government has denied.

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