NEW DELHI: Seven policemen were killed when unidentified armed men carried out two attacks on polio vaccination teams in Karachi on Wednesday, as Pakistani authorities resumed a campaign against the crippling disease.
After the attacks, the campaign was suspended in parts of Karachi as polio workers protested against the deaths and police officials refused to accompany the teams.
Both attacks occurred near a market in the low-income neighborhood of Orangi town, where high walls and narrow lanes make it difficult for vaccination teams to reach homes. Many homes in this area are inhabited by families from the tribal areas.
Polio workers say they are most at risk in such areas where many inhabitants refuse polio drops on religious grounds.
Sindh Police said the first attack targeted three policemen who were escorting a polio team. In the second incident, four policemen in a police van were targeted. Sindh home minister Anwer Siyal said eight armed men carried out the attacks.
A four-day polio vaccination drive was launched in all six districts of Karachi, Hyderabad and Kotri tehsil of Jamshoro on Monday. A total of 6,200 health workers were roped in for the drive and police provided 5,000 personnel to ensure their security.
At least 89 people, including vaccination workers and policemen, have been killed in attacks on vaccination teams since July 2012, according to a Reuters tally based on UN figures and media reports.
Last year, Pakistan reported 54 of the 74 worldwide cases of polio, down drastically from 306 cases reported in the country the year before, mainly due to expanded immunization efforts.
In January, 15 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a polio eradication center in the southwestern city of Quetta. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.