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Pakistani gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccinators

Attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province comes a day after two men with banned TTP gunned down another police officer

Pakistani gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccinators

A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child in Karachi on Sept. 21. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 13, 2021 05:55 AM GMT

Updated: December 13, 2021 06:02 AM GMT

Gunmen shot dead a policeman guarding a polio vaccination team in northwest Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Dec. 12, the second such killing in two days.

"Two gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on a policeman who was guarding a two-member female polio vaccination team in the Sheikh Uttar area, killing him on the spot," Tank district police chief Sajjad Khan told AFP.

Another police official, Amanat Ali, confirmed the incident and said the assailants had escaped.

No one has taken responsibility for the killing, which came a day after an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (TPP) in which two men gunned down a policeman who was guarding a vaccination team in the same area.

The militants on Dec. 10 ended a ceasefire with Pakistan's government mediated with the help of the Afghan Taliban, accusing authorities of violating the terms of the one-month truce.

No progress had been made in fresh negotiations with Pakistan's government, according to an audio message released by Pakistani Taliban leader Noor Wali Mehsud.

Police guards protecting vaccination teams in Pakistan have come under attack in the past, mostly from homegrown militants

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in October that the government was in talks with the group for the first time since 2014, facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, who seized power across the border in August.

The Pakistani Taliban — a separate movement from Afghanistan's new leaders but which shares a common history — plunged Pakistan into a period of horrific violence after forming in 2007.

Police guards protecting vaccination teams in Pakistan have come under attack in the past, mostly from homegrown militants.

Pakistan is one of only two countries where polio remains endemic, though just one case has been reported this year after 84 in 2020, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

But efforts to eradicate the disease have been hampered by conspiracy theories spread by the radical religious right, which claims vaccination programs are part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

The unsubstantiated claims have led many parents, particularly those from poorly educated backgrounds, to refuse the jab for their children.

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