Pak govt continues polio drive, policemen escort health officials

International

Another victim from attacks on UN-backed anti-polio teams in Pakistan died on Thursday, bringing the three-day death toll in the wave of assaults on volunteers vaccinating children across the country to nine, officials said.

Hilal Khan, 20, died a day after he was shot in the head in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said health official Janbaz Afridi.

Since Monday, gunmen had launched attacks across Pakistan on teams vaccinating children against polio. Six women were among the nine anti-polio workers killed in the campaign, jointly conducted with the Pakistani government.

The UN suspended the drive until a government investigation was completed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the killings "cruel, senseless and inexcusable.'' The suspension of the vaccinations was a grave blow to efforts to bring an end to the scourge of polio in Pakistan.

However, local officials in the eastern city of Lahore continued the vaccination on Thursday under police escort, and extended the campaign with a two-day follow-up. Deputy Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal said about 6,000 Pakistani government health workers were escorted by 3,000 police as they fanned out across the city.

"It would have been an easy thing for us to do to stop the campaign,'' he said. "That would have been devastating.''

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