A police officer has been shot dead in northwestern Pakistan when a polio vaccination team he was escorting was attacked in a drive-by shooting.
The attack on Tuesday in Karak, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, marked the second day of a five-day national immunisation drive.
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A local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Al Jazeera the attack took place at 10:10am local time (05:10 GMT) in the area of Latumbar, about 20km (12 miles) west of Karak town.
“Our constable Junaidullah was on polio security duty […] in the area of Latumbar. The attackers came on motorcycles and opened fire on him, and the polio vaccination team was in the van,” said the police official.
No one else was hurt in the attack, and the polio vaccination drive continues in the area.
Last year, Karak and its adjoining districts saw 15 of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s 22 cases of polio, according to official data.
The incident takes the number of people killed in attacks on polio vaccination teams and those providing them security since 2012 to 102, according to an Al Jazeera tally.
The United Nations says endemic polio has been eliminated in every country of the world apart from Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, where vaccination teams are viewed with suspicion.
The opposition to polio vaccines grew after the CIA organised a fake inoculation drive that helped them track down al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
Large security details are now frequently deployed with vaccine teams – particularly in the restive northwest.
The challenges faced by polio teams have sparked fears that any drive to inoculate the population against the coronavirus will also run into problems.
The latest polio effort aims to vaccinate more than 40 million children under the age of five across Pakistan with the help of around 285,000 front-line workers.