QUETTA CITY, Pakistan, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Four polio workers were killed in southwestern Pakistan Wednesday in what is being considered part of a targeted campaign against those combating the virus.
The workers, three women and one man, were killed near Quetta city in Balochistan Province while traveling from their homes to a health center. Two other women were injured.
According to Noor Baksh Mengal, the police official in charge of the area, two attackers on motorbikes fired on a van in which the health workers were riding. At the time of the attack, the workers were on their way to meet a police detail and were not yet accompanied by any security.
While no group immediately claimed credit for the attack, the Taliban is highly influential in the region and publicly opposed to the immunization campaign. Militants have frequently targeted polio workers, accusing them of operating as spies for the West.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world that still has a polio endemic. Efforts to administer vaccines that have elsewhere eradicated the disease have been stymied by constant attacks: The campaign in Baluchistan Province began earlier this month, and has been halted by province home secretary Akbar Durrani in response to Wednesday's killings.
Cases of polio in Pakistan are on the rise this year, with 246 reported cases compared to 74 in 2013, according to official statistics.