Six police officers have been killed and 22 others have been left injured after a roadside bomb exploded near a van carrying police assigned to protect workers in an anti-polio immunization campaign in the North-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The bombing happened today morning January 8, 2024, in the former Pakistani Taliban stronghold in the Mamund area of the Bajaur tribal districts.
An improvised explosive device (IED) struck the police vehicle carrying the slain officers as they were heading to Bajaur, a border district plagued by militancy, to escort and safeguard anti-polio personnel on the first day of a week-long nationwide immunization campaign.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan group, through a statement claimed responsibility for today’s attack, which came hours after authorities had launched the first anti-polio campaign of the new year.
The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is a separate group but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
According to the Regional Police Spokesman Muhammad Asrar, six police officers were killed while 22 were left injured when the blast took place early in the morning as the police team was going out for the polio vaccination drive.
“10 of the wounded officers are in serious condition at Khar hospital in Bajaur,’’ Asrar added.
The Bajaur tribal district is one of the seven tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province that borders Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar.
According to Bilal Faizi the Provincial rescue services spokesperson, most of the injured officers were taken to Khar hospital a local hospital in Bajaur while those in critical condition were sent to the provincial capital, Peshawar which is about 133km (82) miles south of Bajaur.
He added that the death toll might increase, because several of the injured officers who were rushed to local hospitals are in critical condition.
Bajaur’s Senior District Police Officer Bajaur Kashif Zulfiqar confirmed that all the casualties were police personnel and at least 10 seriously wounded cops had been shifted to the neighbouring Peshawar city for better treatment.
Zulfiquar also said that the anti- polio campaign has been halted in the area where the attack occurred but it will continue in other parts of the country that were not affected by the attack.
Islamic extremists frequently target polio teams and the police tasked to protect them, wrongly accusing them of being part of a Western plot to sterilize their children. As a result, anti-polio efforts in Pakistan are sometimes marred by bloodshed.