Gun­men kill 5 women in UN po­lio pro­gram

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byadiljawad and Se­bas­tian Ab­bot U.S. TO PAY PAK­ISTAN $688 MIL­LION as­so­ci­ated PRESS

KARACHI, PAK­ISTAN — Gun­men shot dead five women work­ing on U.N.backed po­lio vac­ci­na­tion ef­forts in two dif­fer­ent Pak­istani cities on Tues­day, of­fi­cials said, a ma­jor set­back for a cam­paign that in­ter­na­tional health of­fi­cials con­sider vi­tal to con­tain the crip­pling disease but which Tal­iban in­sur­gents say is a cover for es­pi­onage.

Pak­istan is one of only three coun­tries where po­lio is en­demic. Mil­i­tants how­ever ac­cuse health work­ers of act­ing as spies for the U.S. and claim the vac­cine makes chil­dren ster­ile. Tal­iban com­man­ders in the trou­bled north­west tribal re­gion have also said vac­ci­na­tions can’t go for­ward un­til the U.S. stops drone strikes in the coun­try.

In­sur­gent op­po­si­tion to the cam­paign grew last year af­ter it was re­vealed that a Pak­istani doc­tor ran a fake vac­ci­na­tion pro­gram to help the CIA track down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, who was hid­ing in the town of Ab­bot­tabad in the coun­try’s north­west.

The Tal­iban have tar­geted pre­vi­ous anti-po­lio cam­paigns, but this has been a par­tic­u­larly deadly week. The government is in the mid­dle of a three­day vac­ci­na­tion drive tar­get­ing high risk ar­eas of the coun­try as part of an ef­fort to im­mu­nize mil­lions of chil­dren un­der the age of five.

“Such at­tacks de­prive Pak­istan’s most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions — es­pe­cially chil­dren — of ba­sic life-sav­ing health in­ter- The United States has de­cided to re­im­burse Pak­istan $688 mil­lion for the cost of pro­vid­ing sup­port for some 140,000 troops on the bor­der with Afghanistan. Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter no­ti­fied Congress that the U.S. would make the pay­ment to Is­lam­abad for ex­penses in­curred from June through Novem­ber 2011. U.S. law­mak­ers have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with Pak­istan, ques­tion­ing its com­mit­ment in the fight against ter­ror­ism. Af­ter some de­bate, top Se­nate Repub­li­cans in July said the money should be re­leased. ven­tions,” said a state­ment jointly re­leased by the government and the U.N. “We call on the lead­ers of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and ev­ery­one con­cerned to do their ut­most to pro­tect health work­ers and cre­ate a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment so that we can meet the health needs of the chil­dren of Pak­istan.”

The women who were killed Tues­day — three of whom were teenagers — were all shot in the head at close range. Four of them were gunned down in the south­ern port city of Karachi, and the fifth in a vil­lage out­side the north­west city of Pe­shawar. Two men who were work­ing along­side the women were also crit­i­cally wounded in Karachi.

The at­tacks in Karachi were well-co­or­di­nated and oc­curred within 15 min­utes in three dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the city that are far apart, said po­lice spokesman Im­ran Shoukat. In each case, the gun­men used 9 mil­lime­ter pis­tols. Two of the women were teenagers, aged 18 and 19, and the other two were in their 40s, he said.

Two of the women were killed while they were in a house giv­ing chil­dren po­lio drops, said Shoukat. The other two were trav­el­ing be­tween houses when they were at­tacked, he said.

On Mon­day an­other per­son work­ing on the anti-po­lio cam­paign, a male vol­un­teer, was gunned down in Karachi. Tal­iban mil­i­tants also killed three sol­diers in an am­bush of an army con­voy es­cort­ing a vac­ci­na­tion team in the north­west.

Of­fi­cials in Karachi re­sponded to the at­tacks by sus­pend­ing the vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign in the city, said Sagheer Ahmed, the health min­is­ter for sur­round­ing Sindh province.

The cam­paign started on Mon­day and was sup­posed to run through to­day, he said.

Im­mu­niza­tion was sus­pended in Karachi in July as well af­ter a lo­cal vol­un­teer was shot to death and two U.N. staff were wounded.

There were con­flict­ing re­ports about whether the cam­paign was also tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the fifth woman was killed Tues­day.

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