9 Health Care Volunteers Shot Dead in Pakistan for Administering ‘Anti-Islamic’ Polio Vaccine

Pakistani villagers attend a funeral of health worker Hilal Khan, who was killed by gunmen, in Wahidgari, outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Another victim from attacks on U.N.-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. Credit: AP 

Just when one thinks the barbarism could not reach greater depths of despair, a revelation emerges that even health care volunteers are not safe in lands controlled by Islamic extremists. Thus far, according to reports in the Associated Press and Reuters, nine members of a polio vaccination team have been shot dead in Pakistan for administering what the terror-group Jundallah claims is a forbidden, anti-Islamic vaccination.

The carnage has prompted United Nations agencies to suspend their polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan, where the disease is an endemic.

Jundullah claimed responsibility for the onslaught. The terrorist organization’s leader, Ahmad Marwat, told RFE-RL’s Radio Mashaal that polio vaccinations are strictly forbidden in Islam and that his group would continue the assassinations on vaccination team members in the country.

The most recent victim, a student-volunteer, succumbed to his injuries in Pakistan Thursday, bringing the death toll to nine, five of which were women.

UNICEF spokesman Michael Colemen said that both his agency and the World Health Organization (WHO) have halted all immunization campaigns.

But some in Karachi are attempting to excuse the attacks.

“The attacks on polio team workers are uninformed actions,” Karachi resident Farooq Akhter told Reuters. “[Attackers] are unaware of the polio campaign, its benefits for children, and for the coming generation. Because whoever gets infected by polio will become handicapped for life.”

The Taliban, too, has jumped on board the anti-polio-vaccination campaign for months, according to reports, claiming the health care campaign is merely a front for U.S. spies to operate in the region. The militant Islamic group also claims the vaccinations are making people ill, rather than helping them.