Five polio workers killed in Pakistan
Five health workers on an anti-polio drive were shot dead by unidentified militants in a string of attacks in Pakistan on Tuesday, officials said, raising fears for the safety of workers immunising children against the crippling disease.
It was not clear who was behind the shootings but Taliban insurgents have repeatedly denounced the anti-polio campaign as a Western plot, reports The Express Tribune.
The immunisation campaign has been suspended in Karachi, health officials have said.
Three women were killed and a man was wounded in two separate attacks on health workers in Karachi on Tuesday, and an anti-polio worker in Karachi was shot dead on Monday.
All of the victims were Pakistanis working with an UN-backed programme to eradicate polio.
In Karachi, Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the government had told 24,000 polio workers it was suspending the anti-polio drive in the province.
Matthew Coleman, a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund said officials are yet to confirm if all the attacks were linked to the health campaign. He added that many of the attacks occurred in areas notorious for gun violence but the situation was deeply concerning.
"We're concerned for the safety of front-line workers. They are the true heroes," he said.
Some Muslim preachers maintain that the polio vaccine is a 'Western plot' to sterilise Muslims. Other religious leaders have taken part in campaigns aimed at debunking that myth.