Gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a senior member of the country’s polio eradication campaign in northwest Pakistan, police said Sunday, in the latest attack on immunisation teams by extremists. Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hit by militant attacks on inoculation teams that have claimed more than 100 lives since December 2012.
Doctor Zakaullah Khan, a seasoned member of Peshawar’s polio vaccination campaign near the country’s restive tribal belt, was killed late Saturday when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire near his house, a senior police official told AFP.
Imtiaz Ahmad, a provincial spokesman for the immunisation campaign, also confirmed the killing. A faction of the Pakistani Taleban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a statement, sent to AFP, the group’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan vowed to carry out more attacks. Islamist opposition to all forms of inoculation grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
He was killed there by US forces in 2011. Despite the attacks, Pakistan hopes to be removed from the list of polio-endemic countries by 2018 by achieving its goal of no fresh cases for a year.
Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio, a crippling childhood disease, remains endemic. In April gunmen shot dead seven policemen guarding a polio vaccination team in Pakistan’s southern port city Karachi. (AFP)