Militants kidnapped 11 Pakistani teachers involved in a polio vaccination campaign for school children on Saturday, officials said, the latest in a string of attacks on health workers trying to eradicate the deadly disease.
The teachers were taken from the private Hira Public School in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal agency, one of the semi autonomous tribal areas along border with the Afghanistan. The gunmen arrived just after teams administering the polio vaccines had left, officials said.
Official Khyali Gul said the gunmen took the teachers to an area controlled by militant leader Mangal Bagh and his Taliban-affiliated Lashkar-e-Islam group. “Mangal Bagh and his men are opposing polio vaccination for children and don’t allow teams to immunise children in their areas,” Gul said.
Another Khyber official said the teachers had been taken to an area where security forces cannot enter due to presence of militants. It was expected they would be released following negotiations with local elders, the official said.
Gunmen frequently attack polio vaccination workers in Pakistan. Militants accuse them of being Western spies or part of a plot to sterilise Muslims. One militant leader said he would only allow vaccinations in his area if US drone strikes stopped.
A global eradication campaign has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent in the last three decades, but it remains endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There were just 223 cases last year, but as long as the disease remains in pockets it can reinfect countries previously cleared.
Six killed, 52 injured in Taliban attack
Kabul: Six people were killed and 52 wounded when the Taliban bombed a predominantly Shi’ite neighbourhood in the southern city of Karachi Saturday, deputy inspector general of police Javed Odho said.
Taliban spokesman Shahid Shahidullah said the attack was in retaliation for sectarian violence in the city of Rawalpindi a week ago. Eight Sunni seminary students were killed in clashes with Shi’ites.
“We are planing massive attacks against Shi’ite community, because they are the enemies of Islam,” Shahidullah said. “We are sure the relatives of the dead students from Rawalpindi Madrassa will get revenge from the blood of the Shi’ites.”