Peshawar: Gunmen ambushed and shot dead two members of a polio monitoring team in a restive Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said Sunday.
The incident happened Saturday night in the Saafi area of the Mohmand tribal district, where authorities imposed a curfew and launched a search operation led by the paramilitary Frontier Corps.
“A monitoring team of the local health department was returning to their headquarters when unidentified gunmen hiding in the bushes along the roadside opened fire on their vehicle, killing two of them on the spot,” local administrator Mahmood Aslam told AFP.
He said another monitor and the driver of the vehicle escaped unhurt.
“According to initial investigation, up to five attackers who were hiding in the bushes (and) later escaped from the scene,” Aslam said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Islamist militants like the Pakistani Taliban have attacked polio vaccination teams and their security escorts across the country in the past, killing more than 100 people since December 2012.
Opposition from Islamist hardliners and militant groups to all forms of inoculation intensified after it was revealed that the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. He was killed there by US special forces in 2011.
Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio — a crippling childhood disease — remains endemic. But authorities hope that despite such attacks, the country will be removed from the list of polio-endemic countries this year by achieving its goal of no fresh cases for a year.