PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Two polio monitoring workers were killed after a polio monitoring team was attacked by militants in a remote tribal region in Pakistan.
Gunman ambushed the team in the Mohmand tribal district, which is a restive Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, killing the two medical workers and leaving two others seriously injured.
According to officials, the gunmen also attacked tribal police and the paramilitary Frontier Corps when they responded to the attack late on Saturday.
One paramilitary was killed and another injured in the attack.
Local administrator Mahmood Aslam said, ”A monitoring team of the local health department was returning to their headquarters when unidentified gunmen hiding in the bushes along the roadside opened fire on their vehicle, killing two of them on the spot.”
He added that another monitor and the driver of the vehicle escaped unhurt, adding, “According to initial investigation, up to five attackers who were hiding in the bushes (and) later escaped from the scene.”
Pakistan's restive Mohmand Agency quoted an official Younus Khan as saying that two workers from the seven-member polio vaccination team went missing after the attack.
They were reportedly later returned unharmed.
Khan added that security forces are still searching for the attackers.
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban, the Jamaatul Ahrar later claimed the attack.
According to Khan, the bodies of the anti-polio workers were handed over to relatives and their funeral will take place later in the day.
Condemning the attack, Provincial Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said that the polio workers were “heroes."
Polio workers in the country have come under attack on several occasions since 2011.
The medical workers have been often targeted by militants after it was revealed that the CIA used a polio vaccination campaign as a ruse to get information on Osama bin Laden, who was later killed by U.S. commandos in Pakistan.T
Islamic extremists have since claimed that the vaccinations are part of a Western plot against Muslims.
Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world where polio is still endemic.