Militants Ban Polio Vaccination in NW Pakistan

Posted June 16th, 2012 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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A militant group based in northwestern Pakistan has banned an anti-polio campaign in a tribal region and warned medical teams to stay away from the territory or face consequences.

The group, based in North Waziristan and led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said in a statement Saturday the ban will remain in effect as long as the United States continues drone attacks in Pakistan.

The statement cited the case of Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help the CIA obtain DNA samples of Osama bin Laden and his family to confirm the al-Qaida leader's presence at a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The statement said the healthcare drive may be used as a cover for U.S. spies.

Pakistan is one of the few countries where the polio virus is endemic.

The Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaida and affiliated militant groups are entrenched in the tribal belt along the Afghan border. The region has seen an increase in drone strikes amid a stalemate in U.S.-Pakistani talks to end a blockade on NATO supplies crossing into Afghanistan.

Islamabad shut down the route after U.S. airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops last November. Pakistan's parliament has demanded an apology for the cross-border attack and an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

Washington refused, saying the drones are one of its most effective ways to target Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants in Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwest.