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Teachers and Aid Workers Murdered by Pakistan Militants Who Oppose Polio Efforts

January 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: In Pakistan today, hundreds turned out to bury seven aid workers who were killed yesterday. It happened in the northwest part of the country, some 75 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

We begin with a report narrated by Harry Smith of Independent Television News.

HARRY SMITH: She died because she was a woman and because she believed in education and health care, one of seven teachers and aid workers shot dead as they left the school and health center where they worked.

The gunman who ambushed them spared her son who was forced out of the vehicle they were traveling in before they then opened fire. His father told how he learned of the attack.

MAN (through translator): I was in the fuel station when I received a call that somebody had opened fire on their vehicle. I left everything and rushed towards the spot. As I reached there, I saw their dead bodies were inside the vehicle, and my son was sitting with someone. The gunman pulled him out and opened fire on them.

HARRY SMITH: The father of another of the victims said they were all well aware of the dangers they faced.

MAN (through translator): I told her many times at home to be careful, as we are poor people. And take care of yourself at all times. Always in response, she said: “Father, I am not guilty. No one can harm me.”

HARRY SMITH: This is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on aid workers and teachers. Pakistan is one of only three countries left in the world where diseases such as polio and measles are endemic. And efforts to immunize the population are treated with suspicion, often characterized as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

The man in charge of the team in the latest outrage says the whole community has been shocked.

JAVED AKHTAR, Support With Working Solutions: We were aware of such type of incidents, but one — the place where we were operating, it was peaceful. The community to whom we are serving, they were with us, so we feel that we are secure.

HARRY SMITH: Suspicions about the motives of aid teams have been fueled by revelations about the CIA, which set up a vaccination program in Abbottabad. That helped them gather DNA evidence to track down Osama bin Laden and kill him.

That operation has been criticized by aid agencies, as it puts them in the firing line. Apart from those who have now lost their lives, thousands of children suffering from normally curable diseases could also end up as the victims.