ISLAMABAD — A gunman shot and killed a police officer and wounded another as they were providing security to a team of health workers who were providing polio vaccinations, in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, according to government officials.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have repeatedly targeted health workers who are vaccinating against polio, accusing them of being spies. The violence has seriously hampered the immunization campaign in Pakistan, which is one of the three countries in the world where polio is endemic.
The resistance to polio vaccination by Taliban militants stiffened after the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in northern Pakistan as revelations surfaced that the CIA had used Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor, to run a fake vaccination campaign to gain access to bin Laden’s hide out.
Since then, Taliban insurgents have increased attacks on the vaccination work and issued religious edicts claiming that the United States uses it as a guise to run a spying network. Hard-line religious extremists also claim that the vaccinations aim to sterilize Muslims.
The attack Wednesday took place in the afternoon in the Par Hoti neighborhood of the Mardan district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, when the police officers, Raj Wali and Mohammad Ishfaq, were accompanying two female medical workers on the second day of a three-day antipolio drive, said Wajid Ali, a local police official.
The police officers were standing guard in the street as the health workers administered polio drops inside a house when an unidentified gunman walked up to them and opened fire. Wali was killed and Ishfaq was wounded, Ali said.
The shooting was widely condemned, and officials said that the vaccination campaign would continue despite militant threats and intimidation.
‘‘Completely condemn the attack on polio teams,’’ Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of President Asif Ali Zardari, who is a goodwill ambassador for polio eradication, wrote on Twitter. ‘‘They fight for a healthier pakistan while the attackers are trying to destroy childrens futures.’’