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Pakistani Taliban claim attack on vaccination team

December 11, 2021

The assault on police officers guarding a polio vaccination team took place a day after the militants had called an end to their truce with the Pakistani government.

A police officer stands guard outside a building in Pakistan
Police officers were targeted by the attack on a polio vaccination campaign Image: Hussain Ali/Pacific Press/imago images

The militant group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack on a team offering polio vaccinations to children.

Gunmen riding a motorcycle shot at two police officers who were guarding the medical team, killing one and wounding the other, officials said.

The assault took place in the district of Tank in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Members of the vaccination team were unharmed.

Child vaccination program targeted

The team was on the second day of a five-day anti-polio drive to vaccinate 6.5 million children, according to Aimal Khan, a spokesperson for the campaign.

Local police official Kamal Shah said the assailants had escaped.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the TTP, said the group had carried out the attack.

Pakistani militants often target polio teams and police assigned to protect them, claiming the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.

Militants pulled out of truce

It was the first attack since the TTP on Friday announced the end of a one-month cease-fire with the government.

The truce had been announced in November amid peace talks between the two sides, but the militant group accused security forces of killing some of their fighters and violating the cease-fire.

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries in the world where polio is endemic after Nigeria was last year declared free of the virus.

Pakistan recorded only one case this year after 84 in 2020, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Not the same Taliban

TTP is a separate movement from Afghanistan's new leaders but shares a common history.

The Pakistan-based militant group plunged the country into a period of horrific violence after forming in 2007.

Seven years after a military crackdown on the movement, Islamabad is now trying to quell a comeback by the group after the victory of hard-line Islamists across the border in Afghanistan in August.

mm/fb (AFP, AP)

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