News Update :

UN doctor, driver shot in Karachi

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gunmen opened fire on a UN vehicle in the volatile Pakistani city of Karachi Tuesday, injuring a foreign doctor working in an immunization campaign against polio and a local driver, authorities said.

The shooting, which occurred in low-income neighborhood Ghoth Soharb East, highlighted the resistance to a widespread vaccination campaign in three days, which began Monday.

The Taliban have banned the vaccine in the northwest, which condemned the campaign as a cover for espionage since a Pakistani doctor, was imprisoned after helping the CIA to find Osama bin Laden, using a vaccination program against hepatitis.

"A vehicle was shot at with bullets. An international and a local driver were injured in the incident," Maryam Yunus, a spokeswoman for the Health of the United Nations Organization, the state.

He said the Ghana Medical and Pakistani driver, had been transferred to a private hospital in the southern port city, where his condition was stable.

"They are safe," said Yunus.

Attacks on foreigners are rare in Karachi, but parts of the city are very volatile. Ethnic and sectarian violence and politically linked, has killed at least 740 people in the city so far this year alone, human rights activists say.

Police blamed the shooting of two Afghan men. Ghoth Soharb neighborhood is home to thousands of Afghan refugees and immigrants from Pakistan's northwest in search of work in making it the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 18 million.

The United Nations staff traveling in an unmarked white double cabin pick-up. The local TV channels broadcast images of bullet holes in the vehicle.

The WHO said later Tuesday that currently "there is no evidence to suggest that this was a deliberate attack or against specific polio eradication and WHO."

He paid tribute to the "incredible value" of over 200,000 people, mainly Pakistani volunteers running all vaccinations, and said the shooting did not derail efforts to eradicate polio in the country.

But police suggested that the doctor may have been deliberately targeted because he had been working in the neighborhood for about three months.

"It could be related to the campaign against polio, as there is resistance in the population against it. We are, however, continues to investigate the real reasons" local station police chief Mohammad Sultan state.

A health expert said on condition of anonymity, also interpreted the attack as a sign of a disturbing trend.

He said there had been threats and announcements in the mosques brand of vaccine against Islam and blamed "a new wave of attacks against polio workers" in the use of the CIA in Pakistan, Shakeel Afridi doctor to help find bin Laden.

The doctor was jailed for 33 years in May, after helping the CIA to find Osama bin Laden, using a vaccination program against hepatitis as cover.

"It has become a very serious and critical. People suspected foreign involvement in the program and false campaign by Afridi has given further credence to the conspiracy theory," he said.

He said the workers were beaten polio in the capital Islamabad on Monday, a team of fire in the southern city of Jacobabad, and a stolen motorcycle in the southwestern city of Ziarat.

"It's an alarming situation because neither the government nor the international aid agencies have a clear strategy to address this issue," he said.

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

The prohibition against the Taliban and insecurity have forced authorities to postpone the inoculations in parts of northwest Pakistan in the tribal belt, endangering the health of more than 350,000 children.

Pakistan says 34 million children under five years will focus on the campaign, which runs until Wednesday.

The highly infectious disease mainly affects children under five years and can cause paralysis within hours. In some cases it may be fatal.

The medical journal The Lancet has said that the problems of vaccination last year led to more cases of polio in Pakistan in a decade, 198 compared to 144 in 2010.

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