Indian Catholic News

Polio vaccine volunteers kidnapped in Pakistan

Armed abductors snatch teachers who were vaccinating children.

Landi Kotal town is a Taliban stronghold with a reputation for lawlessness. (File picture)

Gunmen stormed a private school and abducted 11 teachers taking part in a polio vaccination program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.

Sources said the teachers were administering polio drops early on Saturday to children immediately before the raid at Hira Public School in Bara town in the Khyber Agency region.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but the militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Islam, has a strong presence in the area. Sources said the gunmen took the teachers to nearby Taliban-dominated Landi Kotal town.

The school is privately run by the charity organization Al-Khidmat Committee.

Officials could not be reached for comment about the whereabouts of the abductees. But Pakistani website quoted Assistant Political Agent Nasir Khan as saying that the charity was trying to negotiate the release of the teachers through an assembly of tribal elders.

“We are waiting for the release of the abducted teachers through tribal customs,” he said.

Islamist militants frequently attack polio workers, accusing them of being Western spies. The attacks on health workers have mounted since the disclosure that Pakistani Dr Shakil Afridi ran a fake polio campaign in Abbottabad to help the CIA trace al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Some hardline Islamists believe the vaccines are being used to sterilize Muslim children.

According to the Prime Minister’s Cell for Polio Eradication, 24 polio workers and their police guards have been killed in gun and bomb attacks across the country during the last 18 months.

Last month two people, including a policeman, were killed when a bomb exploded near a health unit just before the start of a vaccination campaign in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.


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