Gunmen Kill Polio Health Workers In Nigeria

Gunmen Kill Polio Health Workers In Nigeria

Gunmen have shot dead nine women who were administering polio vaccinations in two separate attacks in northern Nigeria.

The killings deal a blow to a campaign by global health organisations to defeat polio - a highly infectious disease that can cause irreversible paralysis - in one of the three countries where it remains endemic.

Some influential religious leaders in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north openly oppose polio vaccinations, saying it is a Western plot to harm Muslim children.

Both attacks took place in the city of Kano, in areas a few miles apart.

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

Kano residents said soldiers had cordoned off the areas where the attacks took place and movement was being restricted across the city.

No one has claimed responsibility.

But Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has condemned the use of Western medicine, has been behind a series of violent attacks across northern Nigeria as part of its fight against the country's government.

President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the killings.

"The government will continue to do everything possible to track down and apprehend agents of terrorism in the country," a statement by the president's office said.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his foundation have led a high-profile effort to stamp out polio, which is endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In December, militants in Pakistan killed at least nine workers on a polio vaccine campaign. The militants there say health workers are US spies and the vaccine will make Muslim children sterile.