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Pakistani policeman protecting polio workers shot dead


Gunmen on motorbikes killed a police officer protecting polio workers during a UN-backed vaccination campaign in a north-western village.

The attack took place as dozens of health workers – including several women – were going door-to-door to vaccinate children in Gullu Dheri in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a  police spokesman said. None of the health workers were hurt.

Elsewhere in the north-west, a man wounded a polio worker, Mohammed Mumtaz, with an axe. Mr Mumtaz  was marking houses in Machi village to indicate where vaccinations had been administered. The attacker became irate after his door was marked and swung the axe at Mr Mumtaz, injuring him on his left arm.

The attacks occurred on the second day of a three-day campaign against polio launched by the provincial government. No one claimed responsibility for the shooting in Gullu Dheri, but suspicion fell on Islamist militants.

Some Islamists oppose the vaccination campaign, accusing health workers of acting as spies for the United States and claiming that the polio vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Suspicions heightened considerably after it became known that a Pakistani doctor helped in the US hunt for Osama bin Laden.

In December, gunmen killed nine polio workers in similar attacks across Pakistan, prompting authorities to suspend the vaccination campaign in the troubled areas.