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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bomb kills five police from Pakistan polio protection team

The attack happened in Mamund in Bajaur district, around 14 kilometres (nine miles) from the border with Afghanistan.

A roadside bomb killed at least five police officers deployed to protect polio vaccination workers in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, officials said.

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

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

Kashif Zulfiqar, a senior police officer in the district, also confirmed the death toll.

The attack happened in Mamund in Bajaur district, around 14 kilometres (nine miles) from the border with Afghanistan.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamist militants, including the Pakistan Taliban, have killed scores of polio vaccination workers and their security escorts in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where polio, a debilitating virus which can cause lifelong disability, remains endemic.

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 the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

Firebrand clerics in Pakistan’s restive and mountainous 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.

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Pakistan is due to hold a delayed general election on February 8, as the country grapples with overlapping security, economic and political crises.

Pakistan witnessed a dramatic spike in militant attacks, mainly in its border regions with Afghanistan, after the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

Last year saw casualties from attacks and state counter-terrorism operations hit a six-year high, with more than 1,500 civilians, security forces and militants killed, according to the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.

Islamabad alleges hostile groups operate from “sanctuaries” across the border, a charge the Taliban government has consistently denied.

The biggest threat to Pakistan is its domestic chapter of the Taliban known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which shares a common lineage with the new rulers of Kabul.

“The Taliban have harboured and allowed active support of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan” who number between 4,000 and 6,000 in Afghanistan, a UN Security Council report said last year.