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Taliban bans vaccinations in Pakistan until US drone strikes end

Pakistani Taliban commander said he fears the CIA could use the polio campaign as cover for espionage in region.

Pakistan drone 2012 18 06Enlarge
A Pakistani protester holds a burning US flag as they shout slogans during a protest in Multan on February 9, 2012 against the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region. (S.S. MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Taliban announced it will ban polio vaccinations in Pakistan's tribal region until the US ends its drone campaign, according to The New York Times.

Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur said he fears the CIA could use the polio campaign as cover in North Waziristan, the Times reported. The ban takes effect just days before vaccines were due for 161,000 local children in the area.

"Almost every resident of North Waziristan has become a mental patient because of the drone strikes, which are worse than polio," said a Taliban statement, released over the weekend and reported by CNN. "On one hand, the US spends millions of dollars to eliminate polio, while on the other hand it kills hundreds with the help of its slave, Pakistan."

The Times reported that Bahadur feared the anti-polio campaign could be used as cover for espionage, similar to what happened when Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi helped track deceased Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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According to CNN, "Afridi was linked to a CIA operation to verify Osama bin Laden's whereabouts with a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the town of Abbottabad, where the Al Qaeda leader was hiding before he was killed."

Pakistan is just one of only three countries in the world where polio still exists, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, UPI reported. In Pakistan, the disease is most widespread in this particular region of North Waziristan.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120618/taliban-bans-vaccinations-pakistan-until-us-drone