Gunmen kill two women working to eradicate polio in Quetta


—Photo by The Nation

QUETTA: Gunmen in Pakistan shot and killed two women working on a polio eradication campaign on Thursday, the latest in a string of attacks on efforts to protect children from the crippling and sometimes deadly disease.

No group claimed responsibility for the killings in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Sakina Bibi, 50, and her 20-year-old daughter, Alizah, were giving immunization drops to children when two gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot them, said police official Naseebullah Khan.

“They died on their way to a hospital,” said Khan.

The women were taking part in an immunization campaign in five districts of Baluchistan province, Khan said. Quetta is the provincial capital.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffers from endemic polio, a childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.

Efforts to eradicate the disease have been undermined by opposition from militants, who say immunization is a foreign ploy to sterilize Muslim children or a cover for Western spies.

In 2015, a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a vaccination center in Quetta in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and another militant group, Jundullah.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the Thursday attack and ordered an investigation.

“Polio teams are rendering a huge national service to save our children from the crippling disease. Attack on these dedicated workers, risking their lives for their nation, is an attack on our future,” Abbasi’s office said in a statement.

In another attack on Thursday, unidentified gunmen killed two policemen on patrol in Quetta, police said.—Reuters