Gunmen kill nine polio health workers in Nigeria

Fri Feb 8, 2013 9:19am EST
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By Chukwuemeka Madu

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead nine health workers who were administering polio vaccinations in two separate attacks in Nigeria's main northern city of Kano on Friday, police said.

No one claimed responsibility but Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a sect which has condemned the use of Western medicine, has been blamed for carrying out a spate of assaults on security forces in the city in recent weeks.

Some influential Muslim leaders in Kano openly oppose polio vaccination, saying it is a conspiracy against Muslim children.

The attacks will hit efforts by global health organizations to clear Nigeria's mostly-Muslim north of polio; a virus that can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection.

It is the second time this year that polio workers have come under attack by Islamist militants after gunmen killed aid workers tackling the disease in Pakistan last month.

"Gunmen on bikes opened fire on a health center in the Hotoro district killing seven, while an attack on Zaria Road area of the city claimed two lives," said police spokesman Magaji Musa.

"They were working for the state government giving out polio vaccinations at the time of the attack," Musa added.

Kano government banned motorbikes from carrying passengers last month after the Emir of Kano, one of the country's most prominent leaders, was nearly killed when gunmen attacked his convoy, killing four of his aides.   Continued...