Four Polio Workers Shot Dead in Pakistan

KARACHI: Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead four female Pakistani polio vaccination workers in the country's largest city Karachi on Tuesday, police said.

The killings happened in three different areas of the sprawling port city on the second day of a nationwide three-day drive against the disease, which is endemic in Pakistan.

Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for Sindh province, of which Karachi is capital, said he had ordered a halt to the anti-polio drive in the city in the wake of the shootings.

Senior police officer Shahid Hayat said another polio worker was shot dead in the city on Monday, but the circumstances of his death only became clear on Tuesday.

Hayat blamed "militants who issued a fatwa against polio vaccination in the past" for the killings.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the highly infectious crippling disease remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.

But efforts to taclke polio have been hampered over the years by suspicion over vaccination drives.

Warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the country's tribal northwest, where polio is a particular problem, last June.

Their ban -- to protest against US drone strikes and because they allege that the anti-polio campaign is a cover for espionage -- risks the health of 240,000 children in North and South Waziristan, officials say. AGENCIES

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