Police Officer Latest Victim of Anti-Vaccination Violence in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Gunmen shot and killed a police officer assigned to safeguard a polio vaccination team in the northwest city of Mardan on Tuesday, the latest in a pattern of attacks that have jeopardized efforts to rein in the disease in the South Asian nation.

The officer, Said Muhammad, was providing security for a husband-and-wife team carrying out vaccinations in Mardan’s Sheikh Maltoon neighborhood when two attackers on a motorcycle rode up and opened fire, local officials said. The vaccination workers were unhurt, but Muhammad died instantly.

The attack occurred while the female vaccination worker was inside a house administering vaccination drops to children, and her husband was outside marking the exterior wall to indicate vaccinations were being completed there, said Muhammad Ayaz, a vaccination worker who rushed to the site after hearing shots fired.

In recent months, terror operarives unleashed a wave of violence against polio vaccination workers across the country, denouncing the vaccination drives by U.N.-backed Pakistani healthcare workers as a guise for American spying activity.

At least 11 polio vaccination workers have been killed in Pakistan since December. A land mine blast killed two polio vaccination workers in the tribal region of Kurram on Jan. 31. Assailants killed nine vaccination workers in Karachi and northwest Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in December.