Pakistani officer fatally shot while guarding polio workers

A police officer assigned to safeguard a polio vaccination team was recently shot dead in the northwestern Pakistani city of Mardan.

The shooting is the latest in a series of attacks against efforts to control the crippling childhood illness in Pakistan. In recent months, militants have carried out a wave of violence against polio workers and denounced vaccination campaigns as U.S.-sponsored plots against Muslims, according to Dispatch.com.

The officer, Said Muhammad, was guarding a husband-and-wife team who were vaccinating children in Mardan's Sheikh Maltoon district when two men on a motorcycle approached and fired. Muhammad died almost instantly, but the vaccination team survived unhurt.

The female vaccinator was inside a house administering the vaccine when the shooting occurred, and her husband was marking an exterior wall of the structure to indicate that those inside had been given the oral vaccine.

Since December, at least 11 polio vaccination workers have been killed in violence linked to Islamic militants. Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic. Violence has also been used against vaccine workers in Afghanistan and Nigeria, the other two polio-endemic nations, according to Dispatch.com.

Last year, the number of polio cases confirmed in Pakistan dropped from 173 to 56.