Taliban to ban polio vaccinations for children until US stops drone strikes
A Taliban leader in Pakistan said that until the United States stops drone strikes—like the one that killed al-Qaida no. 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi earlier this month—it will ban polio vaccinations of Pakistani children in the region it controls.
"Polio drops will be banned in North Waziristan until the drones
strikes are stopped," Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur said in a statement released Saturday and published Monday by CNN.
"Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient
because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio. On one hand,
the U.S. spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the
other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan."
UNICEF had been hoping to launch a drive this week to vaccinate
161,000 children in the region. Bahadur said he consulted with leaders
of the Taliban and al-Qaida and with Punjabi leaders before making the
decision to ban the vaccinations.
Pakistan's vaccination program came under scrutiny after a Pakistani
doctor accused of helping the CIA locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad
under the guise of the "door-to-door" program was sentenced to 33 years in prison for "acting against the state."
The announcement, the New York Times said,
is "a blow to polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, which is one of
just three countries where the disease is still endemic and which
accounted for 198 new cases last year—the highest rate in the world."
But it's doubtful that the warning will affect U.S. drone strikes.
The White House has increased its drone operations under President
Barack Obama. The Pakistani government has objected to the drone
strikes, saying they are "a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty."
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