QUETTA (AFP) – At least fourteen people including 12 policemen were killed and 24 others injured in a suicide blast near a polio vaccination centre in Quetta, the police said.
The officers had been gathering outside the centre in Satellite Town area to accompany polio workers for the third day of a vaccination campaign in the province of Balochistan, of which Quetta is the capital.
“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, adding that officials were investigating.According to bomb disposal squad, seven kilograms of explosives were used in the attack.
While condemning the incident, Prime Minister said the government is committed to stamp out extremism from the country and the operation will continue till elimination of terrorism.
He said Pakistan Army has destroyed hideouts of terrorists and is now engaged to eliminate terrorists.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai and Sardar Sanaullah Zehri have also condemned the blast and directed to provide all best medical facilities to the injured.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and leaders of different political parties expressed sympathies with the families of the victims.
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Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic but attempts to eradicate it have been badly hit by opposition from militants and attacks on immunisation teams that have claimed more than 80 lives since December 2012.
The militants claim that the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.
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 expanded immunisation programme was launched in Pakistan in 1978 to protect children by immunising them against diseases including polio.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that primarily affects young children. It can lead to paralysis and death. The virus is easily preventable through immunization, but there s no cure once it is contracted.
Apart from attacks on vaccination teams, Baluchistan, Pakistan‘s largest but least developed and most sparsely populated province, has been racked for decades by a separatist insurgency that was revived in 2004.