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Pakistan clerics denounce attacks on polio aid workers

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Pakistan clerics denounce attacks on polio aid workers

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The death toll from attacks on polio eradication campaign workers in Pakistan has risen to nine after a young student died from gunshot wounds.

On Thursday, hundreds of people joined the funeral procession for the 22-year-old who was killed on the outskirts of the northwestern Peshawar city.

He was shot in the head a day earlier by gunmen on motorbikes, while administering polio drops to children.

Local clerics have condemned the killings, conceding that many villagers are sceptical of the programme’s objectives.

Last year, Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was recruited by the CIA to carry out a fake polio immunisation drive to help hunt down Osama bin Laden.

That gave rise to conspiracy theories about this programme.

“Basically, there is no issue with the (polio) vaccine. I believe that the real culprits behind their deaths are Shakil Afridi and his sponsors,” said Maulana Aamir Siddique, assistant cleric of the Red Mosque.

And then there are those that claim the immunisation is un-Islamic, which clerics say is nonsense.

The Taliban has repeatedly threatened polio health workers. Some said they received calls telling them to stop working with “infidels” just before the attacks.