QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) – Four members of a polio immunisation team have been found murdered after being kidnapped in southwest Pakistan, officials said Wednesday.
Local militants had abducted the vaccination worker, two local tribal policemen and a driver in the Zhob district of Baluchistan province on Saturday.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains en-demic. But attempts to eradicate it have been badly hit by opposition from militants and attacks on im-munisation teams that have now claimed 71 lives since December 2012.
“Security agencies conducted se-veral operations to recover the po-lio worker and other team members and finally found their bodies in the mountains on Tuesday,” a senior local administration official in Zhob, Nazar Muhammad Khatran, told AFP.
He said it seemed the four men were shot dead on Saturday or Sun-day.
A spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Manzoor Ahmad, confirmed the incident.
Taleban militants claim that the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims. They stepped up their at-tacks after a Pakistani doctor was recruited by the CIA to take part in a fake immunisation drive to capture Osama Bin Laden.
Ahmad said Frontier Corps tro-ops on Wednesday secured the safe release of five field staff from the Pakistan Telecommunication Com-pany after an exchange of fire with militants in Zhob district.
They had been abducted last week. Apart from attacks on vaccina-tion teams, Baluchistan – Pakistan’s largest but least developed and most sparsely populated province – has been racked for decades by a separatist insurgency that was re-vived in 2004.