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2 dead in latest attack on Pakistani polio workers

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By The Los Angeles Times
Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A bomb exploded near a government health center on Monday in northwestern Pakistan as anti-polio kits were being distributed, killing two people and wounding at least 12, Pakistani officials said.

The explosion in a suburb of Peshawar, the capital of restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near the Afghan border, was detonated apparently by remote control. It was the latest in a series of attacks on polio workers in Pakistan.

A police officer and a volunteer peace committee member were killed in the blast, which appeared to target police assigned to protect vaccinators shortly before they headed into nearby neighborhoods to administer the anti-polio vaccine, authorities said. The wounded, including seven police officers and five civilians, were taken to Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar's largest.

“The police were the target,” said Najeeb-ur-Rehman Bagvi, a senior police officer.

Dr. Kalim Ullah Khan, assistant director of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's immunization program, said Monday was the final day of a three-day vaccination campaign involving about 10,000 children. The day's immunizations were put on hold temporarily because of the killings.

“There's a lot of fear everywhere,” Khan said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries worldwide, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still considered endemic.

Eight new cases of the wild polio virus were reported here last week, bringing the total number of cases this year to 36, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private health program.

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