Pakistani authorities announced that extremists had ambushed a police car meant to guard members of polio control teams in northwest Pakistan, injuring five police officers.
Police returned fire after the attack near a bridge in the Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, local police chief Amanullah said.
The police chief, who was escorted to the nearest vaccination site, said six to eight extremist suspects ambushed them, opened fire on the vehicle and threw grenades at the police van.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but extremists often attack polio vaccination groups and the police officers who provide protection for them under the false pretense that the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.
The latest campaign against polio started this week and was the first in 2023.
In late November, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt near a truckload of two policemen en route to protect polio workers in the southwestern city of Quetta. A policeman was killed in the truck, and three family members who were in another car next to the truck also died.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the November 30 attack.
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A month earlier, in October, gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a police officer assigned to guard a polio vaccination team in Balochistan, southwestern Pakistan.
Notably, Pakistan is the only country in which polio is still endemic, other than Afghanistan, and the government is constantly running vaccination campaigns. The latest five-day campaign began this week in northwest Pakistan, the first in 2023.
Since April, 20 new cases of polio have been reported in Pakistan, all in the country’s northwest, where parents often refuse to vaccinate their children. The outbreak came as a blow to government efforts to eradicate it.