December 18, 2012 10:30:13 AM
KARACHI, Pakistan -- Gunmen killed five Pakistani women working on a U.N.-backed polio vaccination campaign in two different cities on Tuesday, officials said. The attacks were likely an attempt by the Taliban to counter an initiative the militant group has opposed.
The attacks came a day after an unknown gunman killed a male volunteer for the World Health Organization's anti-polio campaign in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi.
The government is in the middle of a three-day vaccination campaign in the highest risk parts of the country, part of an effort to vaccinate millions of children under the age of five.
Four of the women killed Tuesday were gunned down in Karachi, said Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for surrounding Sindh province. Two male workers were critically wounded in the shootings, said Ahmed, who wrongly reported earlier that one of them had died.
The attack on the polio workers was well-coordinated and occurred simultaneously in three different areas of the city, said police spokesman Imran Shoukat.
The government suspended the vaccination campaign in Karachi in the wake of the shootings, said Ahmed. The campaign started on Monday and was supposed to run until Wednesday, he said.
Gunmen on a motorcycle also shot to death a woman working on a government anti-polio campaign in a village near the northwestern city of Peshawar, said Janbaz Afridi, a senior health official in surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He said the attacks would not stop the government from continuing its vaccination program in the province and the neighboring tribal region, the main sanctuary for Taliban militants in the country.