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Three roadside bombs target Pakistan polio team, kill twelve Bomb claims three soldiers in Baluchistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 1, (AFP): Twelve people were killed and 11 injured when three roadside bombs targeting a polio vaccination team in Pakistan’s restive northwest exploded Saturday, officials said, in the latest attack on efforts to combat the crippling disease. Militant strikes and threats of violence have badly hampered campaigns to stamp out polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries where the disease remains endemic.Eleven paramilitary troops and one child died after the bombs detonated in the Lashora area of Jamroud Tehsil in Khyber tribal district, 30 kms (18 miles) southwest of the city of Peshawar, senior administration official Jahangir Khan told AFP. The troops were protecting a convoy of health workers who were on their way to administer anti-polio drops to children as part of a three-day campaign against polio that started Friday, he said. “A convoy of three vehicles was taking polio workers to administer the drops and the bombs exploded after the first vehicle that was carrying polio workers crossed the spot,” Khan said.

He added that two vehicles belonging to the medical team were also damaged in the explosions. Samim Jan, chief of the government-run hospital in Jamroud, confirmed the causalities. Jan also said that eight of the injured have been shifted to Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar. Rehman Khan, a senior health official in Khyber tribal district, said the polio campaign has been temporarily suspended in the Jamroud area. “We will resume administering of polio drops when the security situation is better,” he told AFP.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. 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 guarding the teams which administer polio drops to children, have been killed in Pakistan since December 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012. Victims are left dead, paralysed or with withered limbs. The WHO has warned that Peshawar, the main city of the northwest, is the world’s “largest reservoir” of polio.

Afghanistan and Nigeria are the other countries where the disease persists. Masked gunmen kidnapped another six-member polio vaccination team southwest of Peshawar earlier last month. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.
In another incident, a bomb blast on Saturday killed at least three paramilitary soldiers and wounded six others in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, officials said.
The roadside bomb hit a patrol vehicle around 200 kms (miles) south of Quetta on a main road linking Baluchistan to the port city of Karachi.
“At least three soldiers were martyred and six others were wounded, when a bomb planted by miscreants exploded on the national highway,” Frontier Corps spokesman Abdul Wasay told AFP.
Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is rife with separatist and Islamist militants and plagued by sectarian bloodshed.
Pakistani officials refer to Baluch insurgents, who have been waging a bloody low-level separatist struggle for a decade, as “miscreants”.
Nobody immediately claimed the responsibility for the attack. Local intelligence officials confirmed the bombing and casualties.


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