A bomb blast has killed the lives of at least five police officers in northwestern Pakistan. The attack occurred during a polio vaccination drive in Bajaur district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan.
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The bomb blast targeted a police vehicle that was part of a team assigned to protect polio vaccination workers.
The explosion happened early in the morning as the police team was on their duty, resulting in casualties and injuries.
Among the wounded, five individuals are reported to be in critical condition, and they have been transferred to the provincial capital, Peshawar, for advanced medical care.
Bilal Faizi, spokesperson for the provincial rescue services, provided details on the response to the blast. He mentioned that most of the injured were taken to a local hospital in Bajaur, while critically injured individuals were transported to Peshawar.
As of now, there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. However, in recent years, the Pakistan Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) has been known to target polio vaccination workers and security officials.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries yet to be declared free of the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV-1) disease.
Achieving the status of being free of polio requires demonstrating an absence of WPV-1 transmission for at least three consecutive years, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Resistance to polio immunization grew in Pakistan after the revelation that the CIA organized a fake vaccination drive to track Osama bin Laden in 2011.
This incident compromised trust in vaccination efforts but also led to the spread of misinformation by religious leaders, claiming that the vaccine contained forbidden substances in Islam.
In 2023, Pakistan reported six polio cases, an improvement from the 20 cases reported in 2022. The country has been actively engaged in nationwide anti-polio campaigns, striving to reach every child and eliminate the virus.
The bomb blast targeting the polio vaccination team comes in a concerning surge in violent incidents across Pakistan.
Data compiled by the Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies reveals that more than 600 violent attacks occurred in the country in 2023, a 70% increase from the previous year. The attacks claimed the lives of over 950 people.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar strongly condemned the attack, expressing the government’s determination to continue the anti-polio campaign with full force.
He offered condolences to the families of the policemen and directed authorities to provide necessary medical assistance to the injured.
Kakar addressed that terrorists would not succeed in their nefarious designs, and the nation salutes the dedication of polio workers and security personnel.
Caretaker KP Chief Minister Justice Arshad Hussain Shah also condemned the blast, expressing grief over the loss of police officials.
He said the commitment of the KP police, acknowledging their eternal sacrifices in protecting the public. The chief minister pledged full support to the bereaved families and reiterated that such cowardly incidents would not dent the morale of the police force.
National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told the sentiments, extending condolences on the loss of precious lives. The public solidarity with the police was said, addressing the collective stance against acts of terrorism.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack on the polio protection team.
This militant groups will disrupt essential public health initiatives and jeopardizing the safety of those involved in vaccination campaigns.
Prime Minister Kakar maintained the government’s resolve to combat terrorism and eliminate the poliovirus from the country.
He reiterated that the anti-polio campaign would continue unabated, addressing that terrorists would not succeed in undermining the nation’s determination.
Former climate change minister Sherry Rehman voiced her heartfelt sympathies to the families of the deceased and condemned the terrorists for attacking both the police and jeopardizing children’s health.
The events continued with an additional incident where a Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) official was martyred in firing at the Peshawar judicial complex.
The official lost his life, and three others, including a police officer and two individuals from the targeted side, were injured.
The suspect, disguised as a lawyer, was arrested on the occasion, with the authorities initiating further investigation into the incident.