Deadly blast targets polio vaccination centre in Pakistan
Issued on: Modified:
At least 15 people were killed in a blast apparently targeting police outside a polio vaccination centre in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Wednesday, according to officials.
The officers had been gathering outside the centre to accompany polio workers for the third day of a vaccination campaign in the province of Balochistan, of which Quetta is the capital.
"There are 15 dead, including 12 police, one paramilitary, and two civilians," a local police official told AFP, adding that at least 10 people had been wounded, nine of whom were police and one a civilian.
A doctor at Sandeman hospital in the city confirmed the toll.
"So far 15 bodies have been brought to the hospital," he told AFP.
"We are living in a war zone and I can't say anything about the nature of the blast," Sarfaraz Bugti, Balochistan home minister, told media in Quetta, adding that officials were investigating.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic. Attempts to eradicate it have been badly hit by militant attacks on immunisation teams that have claimed nearly 80 lives since December 2012.
The most recent attack came in November last year, when unknown gunmen shot and killed the head of an immunisation programme in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district of Swabi.
The militants claim the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims. In 2014 the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan soared to 306, the highest in 14 years.
The expanded immunisation programme was launched in Pakistan in 1978 to protect children by immunising them against diseases including polio.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe