Up to six health workers in anti-polio drive shot dead

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 00:00

Five female health workers vaccinating children against polio have been shot dead in Pakistan in a series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants. One victim was a 17-year-old schoolgirl volunteer.

Four of the killings, which officials said were carried out by masked men on motorbikes, took place in the southern city of Karachi on the second day of a drive to eradicate the disease from the country.

The fifth killing, of the schoolgirl, occurred in the violent western city of Peshawar. According to some reports, a sixth health worker, a man, was also killed in Karachi.

It was not clear who was behind the shootings, but Taliban insurgents have repeatedly denounced the anti-polio campaign as a western plot.

The Pakistani government and United Nations partner organisations involved in the anti-polio campaign were meeting yesterday to discuss the security situation.

The volunteers were taking part in a three-day drive to vaccinate tens of millions of children at risk from polio in Pakistan.