ISLAMABAD -- A Pakistani soldier was killed on Wednesday (May 31) when militants opened fire on a polio vaccination team, the country's military said, in the latest attack claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hindered by terrorists targeting inoculation teams. They have claimed hundreds of lives in over a decade.
"Terrorists attempted to disrupt the ongoing polio campaign by firing on the members of the polio team," the military said in a statement about the assault in North Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, which borders Afghanistan.
A soldier deployed to protect the vaccination team was killed during an exchange of fire, it added.
The shootout came days after the government launched the latest polio eradication campaign, said Aslam Riaz, a police officer in the region, the Associated Press reported.
The TTP, which is waging a campaign against Pakistani security forces, claimed the attack in a statement to the media.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where the wild poliovirus remains endemic, though Malawi and Mozambique also detected imported wild polio cases in 2022.
Polio vaccination teams are routinely escorted by police in Pakistan's western regions, and the TTP has made a habit of ambushing officers as they travel into those restive remote areas.
Last November 30, a TTP suicide bomber targeted a police truck in Quetta, Balochistan, killing three and injuring 23 people.
Senior police official Azhar Mehesar told AFP at the time that the blast targeted a security force preparing to escort polio vaccinators in the city, and those killed "include a policeman, a woman and a child".
Earlier in November, six police officers were killed by the TTP in a shootout while they patrolled the village of Shahab Khel, KP, 100km from the Afghan border.
In February, a TTP suicide squad stormed the Karachi Police Office (KPO) compound, killing four people and injuring 19, according to Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab.
One of the three terrorists blew himself up on the building's fourth floor, while two others were fatally shot on the roof.
Following the February 17 assault, the Sindh Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), federal intelligence and other agencies formed a joint team to track down and break up the network behind it, said Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon.
Police on March 13 said they killed two "masterminds" of the attack and arrested two other suspects affiliated with the TTP.
Recent arrests and killings of high-profile militants in the ongoing crackdown against the TTP and other terror outfits have resulted in a significant decline in terrorism in KP province, according to a CTD report released May 13.
Incidents of terrorism in the province declined by 11.9% in April, compared to the previous three months of the year, the KP CTD observed.