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8 polio vaccinators killed during series of target attacks in Afghanistan

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KABUL: Eight members of polio vaccination teams, working to eradicate the crippling virus in Afghanistan, were killed in four separate attacks.

The Taliban said they had “received the news” of the incidents and were trying to get more information.

“Our policy is clear, we want to vaccinate and protect all the children in Afghanistan under the age of five,” Javid Hajir, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, told western media.

“We are appalled by the brutality of these killings, across four separate locations,” the UN said in a statement.

“This senseless violence must stop immediately, and those responsible must be investigated and brought to justice. These attacks are a violation of international humanitarian law.”

The UN said one person was killed in Takhar province in the far north, and seven in neighbouring Kunduz province including four in the provincial capital Kunduz city.

They were engaged in house-to-house visits or on their way to begin campaigns, the UN said.

Polio teams were frequently targeted by insurgent groups in Afghanistan until the Taliban’s takeover of the country last year, when the group said it wanted to work with the UN to stamp out the disease.

In the past polio campaigns in Afghanistan – and neighbouring Pakistan – were accused of being fronts for spying, while some clerics said the vaccine was a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated, although Pakistan last month reported a year without a case for the first time in history.

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