Gunmen kill four polio workers, wound three in Afghanistan’s east

Polio workers targeted in three locations in Jalalabad city – the latest in a series of attacks against health workers.

A child receives a polio vaccination during an anti-polio campaign on the outskirts of Jalalabad [File: Reuters]

Four polio vaccination workers have been killed and three others injured in separate attacks in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad, a provincial health department official said, in the latest in a series of attacks against health workers.

A wave of assassinations has hit urban centres since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government last year in Doha, many of them targeting government employees, health workers, media and civil society members.

Dr Jan Mohammad, the head of polio immunisation drive in Nangarhar, of which Jalalabad is the main city, on Tuesday said gunmen targeted polio workers in three locations in the city that killed four men and wounded three other people.

The polio vaccination campaign in the province was suspended later on Tuesday, said Najibullah Kamawal, operational chief for the eastern provinces. It wasn’t clear when or if it would resume.

Gunmen killed three female polio vaccination workers in Jalalabad in March this year, which forced the health workers to suspend their operations and assess security.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

Men pray in front of the coffin of one of three female polio vaccination workers who were killed by unknown gunmen at two separate locations in Jalalabad in March this year [File: Reuters]

No group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks.

The Taliban, which is fighting to overthrow the foreign-backed Afghan government, has denied involvement in previous attacks.

The ISIL (ISIS) group has also taken responsibility for several targeted killings that have taken aim at the country’s nascent civil society, as well as journalists and legal professionals.

Zia ul Haq Amarkhil, the governor of Nangarhar, said police were investigating the attacks.

Many in Afghanistan’s conservative society oppose vaccinations, with fighters frequently attacking health workers claiming they are being used by the West as a cover for spying.

The recent increase in violence comes as the US and NATO are completing their military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The estimated 2,500-3,500 US soldiers and 7,000 NATO-allied troops are to be gone by September 11 at the latest, though there are projections they may be gone by mid-July.

Source: News Agencies