Nigeria: Extremists gun down nine women giving polio vaccines to children

Drive-by gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on health workers about to give polio vaccines to children in northern Nigeria, killing nine women in twin attacks blamed on Islamic fundamentalists.

Nigerian women wait for their children to be immunised against polio in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.

Nigerian women wait for their children to be immunised against polio in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.
Photo: EPA  –  By Mike Pflanz, West Africa Correspondent

Another four people were injured in the two separate incidents in Kano in Nigeria’s majority-Muslim north, where the al-Qaeda-allied militant group Boko Haram operates.

The group has previously claimed that inoculations were a Western plot to sterilise Nigerian women, and its members were suspected in another shooting in October that left two guards at a polio vaccine centre dead.

“The health workers were assembling at a dispensary before beginning their daily rounds when the first attackers arrived and opened fire,” said Musa Mugaji, Kano’s police spokesman.

“There was another attack just soon after elsewhere in the city. Today nine good people helping others have been killed.”

One woman who was shot in the back described from her hospital bed how two gunmen stormed into her clinic and opened fire, killing two of her colleagues.

They then set fire to a curtain in the consultation room and fled, shutting the door behind them.

“We summoned courage and broke the door because we realised they wanted to burn us alive,” the woman said. She was too afraid to give her name.

One senior Muslim leader in Kano claimed a decade ago that polio vaccines “were corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies”.

Panicked families stopped inoculating their children, leading to an outbreak of polio in Nigeria, one of only three countries in the world, with Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the virus is still endemic.

In December and January, 19 polio vaccination workers were killed in Pakistan, where Islamic fundamentalists accuse health workers of being US spies.

Those rumours grew after it was revealed a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill Osama bin Laden.


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