Gunmen kill 6 anti-polio workers in Pakistan

Updated 18 December 2012
0

Gunmen kill 6 anti-polio workers in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan: Gunmen killed six people working on a government polio vaccination campaign in two different Pakistani cities on Tuesday, officials said. The attacks were likely an attempt by the Taleban to counter an initiative the militant group has long opposed.
The attacks came a day after an unknown gunman killed a volunteer for the World Health Organization’s anti-polio campaign in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
Five of the polio workers killed Tuesday were also gunned down in Karachi, said Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for surrounding Sindh province. Four of the dead were women. Two male workers were wounded, and one eventually passed away, said Ahmed.
The attack on the polio workers was well-coordinated and occurred simultaneously in three different areas of the city, said police spokesman Imran Shoukat.
The government suspended the vaccination campaign in the wake of the shootings, said Ahmed. The campaign started on Monday and was supposed to run until Wednesday, he said.
Gunmen on a motorcycle also shot to death a woman working on a government anti-polio campaign in a village near the northwestern city of Peshawar, said Janbaz Afridi, a senior health official in surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Taleban have spoken out against polio vaccination in recent months, claiming the health workers are acting as spies for the US and the vaccine itself causes harm. Militants in parts of Pakistan’s tribal region have also said the vaccination campaign can’t go forward until the US stops drone attacks in the country.
The shootings in Karachi on Tuesday all took place in areas mainly populated by ethnic Pashtuns. The Taleban are a Pashtun-dominated movement, and many militants are reported to be hiding in these communities in Karachi.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is endemic. The virus usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions, attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze.
The government, teaming up with UN agencies, is on a nationwide campaign to give oral polio drops to 34 million children under the age of five.
But vaccination programs, especially those with international links, have come under suspicion in the country since a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program last year to help the CIA track down Osama Bin Laden.
Also Tuesday, two men on a motorcycle hurled hand grenades at the main gate of an army recruiting center in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding 10 people, police said.
The injured in the attack in the garrison town of Risalpur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa included civilians and security personnel, senior police official Ghulam Mohammed told The Associated Press. The police have launched a manhunt to trace and arrest the attackers, he said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of assaults in recent days that illustrate the continued challenge Pakistan faces from militants despite military operations against the Pakistani Taleban and their supporters.
Tuesday’s attack came a day after a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan’s northwestern town of Jamrud near the Afghan border, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is located on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal region, the main sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taleban in the country. The province has witnessed scores of attacks, most of them blamed on the Taleban.
Ten Taleban fighters armed with rockets and car bombs attacked the military section of an international airport in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Saturday night, killing four people and wounding over 40 others. Five of the militants were killed during the attack and the other five died Sunday after hours-long shootout with security forces.
____
Associated Press writer Jamal Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.


Independence dilemma for Greenland voters

Updated 3 min 16 sec ago
0

Independence dilemma for Greenland voters

  • Rich in natural resources, Greenland gained autonomy from Denmark in 1979 and was granted self-rule in 2009, although Copenhagen retains control of foreign and defense affairs.
  • Denmark provides some 3.6 billion kroner (€483 million) in subsidies each year, equivalent to 60 percent of the budget and which would be cut if Greenland opted for full independence.

COPENHAGEN: Greenland’s tiny electorate went to the polls Tuesday with independence the key issue for the vast self-ruled Danish territory now threatened by global warming and struggling with youth suicides and sex abuse among its indigenous people.
Rich in natural resources, Greenland gained autonomy from Denmark in 1979 and was granted self-rule in 2009, although Copenhagen retains control of foreign and defense affairs.
The giant ice-covered island between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans is home to just 55,000 people.
Denmark provides some 3.6 billion kroner (€483 million) in subsidies each year, equivalent to 60 percent of the budget and which would be cut if Greenland opted for full independence.
So the main issue is when and how to break the Danish link without impoverishing the island.
A gross domestic product of $2.2 billion, according to figures for 2015, puts Greenland in the same economic league as San Marino.
Of the seven political parties, six favor independence. Some are keen to declare independence by 2021 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Denmark’s occupation though most have not set a timeline.
Opinion polls suggest the left-green Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party will win Tuesday’s election, where 31 seats in the local parliament are up for grabs.
A poll published Friday gave IA with 31 percent of votes, ahead of its main rival, the social democratic Siumut party which has dominated Greenland politics since 1979 and is currently in power.
Seen garnering 27.4 percent of votes, Siumut could find itself relegated to the opposition — though one in four voters is still undecided.
The two parties are at odds over the use of the island’s lucrative natural resources and the thorny issue of uranium mining, which IA, with strong support among urban youth, opposes.
Meanwhile, polls show the newly-formed Cooperation Party, the only anti-independence party, with around 2.9 percent of votes.
Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, a lawmaker for IA, told AFP that before setting a timeline for independence, the island should first lay the financial groundwork.
“Foreign investments are going to be crucial when you talk about the development of Greenlandic society,” she said.
Her party wants to see a diversification of investments, as rising temperatures in the Arctic melt Greenland’s ice sheet, exposing mineral riches — and drawing eager glances from the West, Russia and China.
“Economic development the last (few) years has been rather good; the fishing industry has been doing quite well ... Employment has been increasing and unemployment is low,” said Torben Andersen, Aarhus University economics professor and chairman of the Greenland Economic Council.
Fishing, which accounts for 90 percent of Greenland’s exports, is benefiting from climate change as rising temperatures bring new species to fish to its waters but that is likely to change over time.
While Greenland may have a wealth of untapped natural resources that could help finance its independence, “it suffers from a lack of infrastructure and a qualified labor shortage,” said Mikaa Mered, an Arctic expert and economics and geopolitics professor at France’s School of International Relations.
Heidi Moller Isaksen, a 51-year-old secretary who lives in the capital Nuuk, said breaking free from Denmark is a long-term goal.
“I do want independence one day but we’ve got to be realistic and take one step at a time,” she told AFP.
“We can never have independence as long as we have so many social problems.”
The Inuit like other indigenous populations are torn between tradition and modernization.
That tension has led to Greenland having one of the world’s highest suicide rates, and a third of children are victims of sexual abuse.
In addition, global warming has sparked an exodus from isolated villages to the few urban areas, said Mered.
It is “wreaking havoc on Greenland’s culture: young people are losing interest in traditional hunting and fishing, it’s difficult to travel by dogsled from one village to another, and wild animals are moving further and further away from the regular hunting grounds,” he said.
All of this leads to “numerous new problems, such as youth suicides.”
Voter turnout is typically high in Greenland at around 70 percent. The polls close at 2200 GMT.