Shooters killed three female polio health workers who were administering vaccinations in Jalalabad City in eastern Afghanistan. The officials said that the explosion also rocked the provincial health department headquarters, but no fatalities were reported.
Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, Head of the Immunization Program at the Afghan Ministry of Health, told Reuters that the explosion occurred at the Ministry of Health entrance for Nangarhar Province on Tuesday morning.
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Around the same time, the unknown armed individual shot vaccination workers in two separate locations in Jalalabad, killing two volunteers and one supervisor in the polio immunization program; they were all women, he said. It is not clear who was behind the attack. A Taliban spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The wave of assassinations has hit city centers amid the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government last year in Doha; many of them target professional women and members of government, media, and civil society members. Three female journalists were killed in Jalalabad this month, an attack claimed by the Islamic state. The government blames the Taliban for most of the targeted murder. However, it denies any involvement.
The attack came on the same week the polio vaccination campaign for 2021 began. The Ministry of Health leads this program with the involvement of UNICEF, the UN children’s body. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only countries where crippling diseases are still endemic.
Militant groups, including the Taliban, have targeted health workers in the past. The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan warned that the health workers were at risk after a series of attacks last year. One attack on the Kabul maternity ward in May killed twenty-four people, including newborn mothers and babies.
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