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Suicide Bombing Kills 14 at Pakistan Polio Immunization Facility

  • Ayaz Gul

Pakistani police officers and rescue workers gather at the site of suicide bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016.

Pakistani police officers and rescue workers gather at the site of suicide bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016.

Pakistani police and hospital officials said a suicide bombing Wednesday at a polio vaccination center in southwestern Pakistan killed at least 14 people and wounded 23 others.

Doctors said five of the wounded were listed as critical and that the death toll could rise.

The attack occurred in the city of Quetta, the capital of violence-plagued Balochistan province, and authorities say most of the casualties were security personnel.

Quetta, Pakistan

Quetta, Pakistan

Imtiaz Shah, a senior Quetta police officer, told reporters the suicide bomber had at least seven kilograms of explosives strapped to his body when he walked into a gathering of security forces and civilian health workers and set off the blast.

Tehreek-e-Taliban claims responsibility

A spokesman for the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement to reporters. The extremist alliance of militant organizations commonly referred to as Pakistani Taliban has been waging a deadly insurgency against the state and is blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in recent years. However, army-led operations against TTP's strongholds in northwestern areas and elsewhere in the country have led to a significant decline in militant violence in the past year.

Provincial authorities said vaccinators and security officers had gathered at the vaccination center Wednesday before being dispatched throughout Quetta during an ongoing three-day immunization campaign when the bomber struck.

Polio vaccinators targeted

Attempts to eradicate polio through immunization drives in Pakistan — one of only three countries where polio remains endemic — have been stymied by repeated attacks on health workers and security personnel. At least 80 people have been killed in such attacks since 2012.

Religious groups in rural Pakistan have long seen the anti-polio campaign as a Western conspiracy to sterilize Muslims, and Islamist militants suspect it is a front for espionage.

Despite the attacks, 2015 saw a substantial 84 percent drop in polio cases in Pakistan, according to officials and international donors.

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