2 polio workers killed in ambush in tribal region

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Two members of an independent polio monitoring unit were killed after being kidnapped and held hostage by unidentified men, while a Frontier Corps (FC) official was martyred and two others injured during a search operation in Saifi, Mohmand Agency on Saturday night after the attack. The slain workers were identified as Wajid Khan from Mohmand Agency and Salahuddin Khan from Bajaur Agency. Since then, health workers vaccinating children to prevent polio have been attacked by militants targeting anti-polio campaigns.

"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", local administrator Mahmood Aslam told AFP.

While security personnel were searching for the five missing workers, they were attacked.

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Officials claimed that the post-monitoring team was in the field without informing the political administration and the security forces despite Political Agent Mohmand Agency's strict orders to follow the standard operating procedure.

Khan said the bodies of the anti-polio workers were handed over to relatives and their funeral was to take place later in the day.

The administration has however stated that it is still unclear whether the attack on the polio team was as an act of harassment by militants in the area or to halt the polio drive.

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Polio workers have come under attack on several occasions since it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency used a polio vaccination campaign as a ruse to get information on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. commandos in Pakistan in 2011.

For several years the attacks on polio workers and police authority protecting the workers were constant.

The security forces launched a search operation on Sunday and arrested 39 tribesmen under the collective responsibility section of the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

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