Gunmen in Pakistan kill policeman guarding polio team

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Gunmen shot dead a policeman guarding a polio vaccination team in Pakistan’s northwest on Sunday in the second such killing in two days, police said on Sunday.

The attack in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa came a day after two men with the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, gunned down another police officer who was guarding a similar vaccination team in the same area.Polio is a disease that especially affects children, and can cripple people for life [File: Asif Hassan/AFP]© Provided by Al Jazeera Polio is a disease that especially affects children, and can cripple people for life [File: Asif Hassan/AFP]

“Two gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on a policeman who was guarding a two-member female polio vaccination team in the Sheikh Uttar area, killing him on the spot,” Tank district police chief Sajjad Khan told the AFP news agency.

Another local police official, Amanat Ali, confirmed the incident and said the assailants had escaped.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing, but a spokesman for the TTP earlier claimed Saturday’s attack.

The attacks came three days after the armed group announced that a month-long ceasefire agreement with the government had come to an end, accusing authorities of violating the terms of the one-month truce.

No progress had been made in fresh negotiations with Pakistan’s government, according to an audio message released late on Friday by Pakistani Taliban leader Noor Wali Mehsud.

Polio remains endemic

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in October that the government was in talks with the group for the first time since 2014, facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, which seized power across the border in August.

The TTP, a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban, plunged Pakistan into a period of deadly violence after forming in 2007.

Police guards protecting vaccination teams in Pakistan have come under attack in the past, mostly from homegrown armed rebels, who claim the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilise children.

Pakistan is one of two countries where polio remains endemic but only one case has been reported this year after 84 in 2020, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Polio is a disease that especially affects children, and can cripple people for life.

In 2014, the WHO made it mandatory for all people travelling from Pakistan to have a polio vaccination certificate, although the ban is not effectively enforced.

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