Pakistan: Four dead as bomber hits Quetta police protecting polio teams


QUETTA: A suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers outside Quetta on Wednesday, killing four people, including a policeman, and wounding at least 23, mostly law enforcement.

Ghulam Azfar Mahesar, deputy inspector general (DIG) of Quetta police, said the attack happened when the policemen were heading to the polio workers, part of a nationwide vaccination drive launched Monday.

He said the bombing also damaged a nearby car carrying members of a family.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a statement claimed responsibility. In a statement, the militant group said the attack in Balochistan targeted police to avenge the killing of their former spokesperson, Abdul Wali. He was widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani and was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan’s Paktika province in August. His death was a heavy blow to the group.

The attack on police came amid a spike in new polio cases among children. The latest vaccination campaign is the sixth such drive this year and will last for five days, aiming to inoculate children under the age of five in high-risk areas.

The drive is aimed at Islamabad and in the high-risk districts in Punjab and Balochistan, where Monday’s attack took place. It killed at least two people, including a police officer and a child. A similar campaign will be launched in the northwest in the first week of December.

The authorities have been launching such campaigns regularly despite attacks on workers and police assigned to inoculation drives.

Militants falsely claim that vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilise children. Since April, Pakistan has registered 20 new polio cases, which can cause severe paralysis in children.

Pakistan came close to eradicating polio last year, when only one case was reported.

Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two countries in which polio has not been eliminated.

Wednesday’s bombing happened two days after the TTP ended a monthslong cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, ordering its fighters to resume attacks across the country, where scores of deadly attacks have been blamed on the insurgent group.

In Monday’s statement, the outlawed TTP group said it would end the five-month cease-fire after the army stepped up operations against the TTP.

Pakistan and the TTP had agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in May after talks in Afghanistan’s capital. The TTP is a separate group but are allies of the Afghanistan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened TTP, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in Afghanistan.

The latest violence comes a day after Pakistan’s new military chief, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, took command.

Munir, a former spymaster, replaced Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa after he retired from the post after a six-year term. Bajwa, during his tenure, had approved a series of operations against the militants in Balochistan, northwest and elsewhere in the country.

The latest attack also comes a day after the military claimed it killed 10 “terrorists” in a raid in the Hoshab district of Balochistan.__Pakistan Today