February 2, 2023

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Suicide bomber attacks Pakistani police guarding polio vaccination team, killing 3 from Reuters

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber rammed a police escort for a polio vaccination team in southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing three people and injuring more than 30, police said, just two days after militants ended a ceasefire .

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack near the city of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, in a statement received by Reuters.

Separately, the army said it killed 10 militants in Balochistan on Tuesday but did not clarify whether they were TTP or Baloch separatist fighters.

Police officer Azfar Mehsar told reporters the assassin rammed his vehicle into the police truck, detonating the explosives and forcing the police truck to plunge into a ravine.

The suicide bomber’s victims included a police officer, a woman and a child, and some of the wounded were in critical condition, another police officer, Abdul Haq, told Reuters.

15 police officers were among the injured, he said.

The patrol was guarding a polio vaccination team, Haq said. Islamist militants in Pakistan often target polio vaccination teams after spreading rumors that the vaccination effort is a Western tool to spy on them and render Muslims sterile.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack and promised to continue the vaccination campaign.

Although Pakistan maintained ties with the Afghan Taliban during the long insurgency to drive Western forces out of Afghanistan, it has been fighting the TTP on its own borders for years, even though the TTP has ties to the Afghan Taliban.

The TTP wants to overthrow the Pakistani government in order to replace it with a system of government that follows its own strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Pakistan Army has conducted several operations against the militants in their strongholds in lawless districts along the Afghan border in recent months.