Via The New York Times: Gunmen in Pakistan Kill 4 Anti-Polio Workers. Excerpt:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Unidentified gunmen killed four health workers taking part in an anti-polio campaign in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, highlighting the challenge the country faces in stopping the spread of the virus.
Pakistan is one of three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic. But even as Nigeria has managed to halt any rise in new cases, the virus has spread at alarming rates in Pakistan, with 260 new cases reported so far this year, compared with 64 at the same point in 2013, according to Global Polio Eradication Initiative statistics.
Although Pakistani officials have reaffirmed their commitment to halting the virus, immunization efforts have been deeply hampered by political chaos and militant violence.
Immunization workers have repeatedly come under fire by Pakistani militants, and that appeared to be the case again on Wednesday, though no group claimed responsibility. Militants have widely viewed immunization workers as potential spies and agents of the West.
The police said the attack happened around 10 a.m. on the eastern outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, which has been wracked by sectarian violence and a long and brutal war between Baluch separatists and the military and its allied militias.
The vaccination campaign in Quetta and the surrounding district was immediately halted, but officials said it would continue in other districts of Baluchistan.
“Three women and one man died in the attack,” Noor Baksh Mengal, the police official in charge of the neighborhood where the killings took place, said by telephone. “Three other females workers are also wounded.”
The wounded workers were admitted to a hospital, and their condition was said to be not life-threatening.
Mr. Mengal said that two attackers riding a motorcycle had opened fire on a van carrying the health workers. He said the workers were not accompanied by a police security team at the time, and he faulted them for not properly coordinating with the police. He said the workers were to meet a police team and were on their way to that meeting when they came under attack.