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WHO doctor attacked during Pakistan polio campaign

From Ayza Omar, For CNN
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Tue July 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dr. Constant Dedo is working on a WHO polio vaccination campaign
  • The WHO says he and his driver were shot in Karachi, Pakistan
  • Both men are in stable condition

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A World Health Organization consultant who was conducting a polio vaccination campaign was attacked by unknown assailants in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, the group said.

Dr. Constant Dedo, who was hired by the WHO's polio drive, was returning from a routine visit to Gadap, a town in northwestern Karachi, WHO spokeswoman Maryam Yunus said. His vehicle was intercepted by gunmen on a motorbike and shot at; the first bullets struck the tires, rendering the vehicle immobile, Yunus said.

The assailants then fired at the driver, who was struck in the neck and shoulders, and Dedo, who was shot in the abdomen, Yunus said.

"Both were given first aid and shifted to Agha Khan Hospital," Yunus said. "Their condition is stable, and they are out of danger."

Bin Laden raid hurts polio campaign

The motive for the attack was unclear. However, Pakistanis have viewed polio vaccination campaigns with suspicion after the CIA's use of a fake vaccination program last year to collect DNA samples from residents of Osama bin Laden's compound to verify the al Qaeda leader's presence there. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in May 2011.

Last month, a Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan announced a ban on polio vaccines for children in the region as long as the United States continues its campaign of drone strikes in the region, the Taliban said.

"Polio drops will be banned in North Waziristan" until the strikes cease, according to a Taliban statement. North Waziristan is a tribal region of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

The WHO said the ban could affect about 280,000 children living in tribal areas. A three-day nationwide effort to administer polio vaccines began this week, but health workers and volunteers were not able to immunize children in North and South Waziristan, the organization said.

Read more about WHO's estimates about the ban's effect

Dedo, who is from Ghana, has been living in Karachi for some time while working on the anti-polio campaign. The driver was a WHO staffer, Yunus said.

Police were investigating and would interview the driver, she said. It was unclear whether Dedo's vehicle had a security convoy with it, a routine practice, she said.

WHO officials had informed leaders in Gadap of Dedo's visit before his arrival, Yunus said.

It was the first time WHO staff has been attacked in Pakistan, she said, but the organization will not suspend operations.

CNN's Reza Sayah and Madison Park contributed to this report.

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