KABUL (Reuters) – The United Nations condemned the killing of eight polio workers by unknown gunmen in Afghanistan, which it said had set back the campaign to eradicate the disease in the country.
The Taliban, who took control of the country in August, said there were separate attacks on Thursday in northeastern Kunduz and Takhar provinces.
The killings were the first since UNICEF and the World Health Organization launched a nationwide polio vaccine campaign in November aimed at reaching over 3 million children, with the backing of the Taliban.
The Ministry of Public Health said the victims included four women.
The United Nations said the killings had led to the suspension of the vaccination campaign in the two provinces.
“We are appalled by the brutality of these killings, across four separate locations,” the U.N. said in a statement. “This senseless violence must stop immediately, and those responsible must be investigated and brought to justice.”
The public health ministry statement said authorities were investigating.
Polio has been virtually eliminated globally through a decades-long inoculation drive. But insecurity, inaccessible terrain, mass displacement and suspicion of outside interference have hampered mass vaccination in Afghanistan and some areas of Pakistan.