Pakistani officials say 11 people have been kidnapped by militants for their involvement in a polio vaccination campaign.
The victims were abducted in the Khyber tribal region Thursday during a three-day polio vaccination campaign in the volatile area. A terrorist group with ties to the Taliban is believed to be responsible. (Via Voice of America)
Tribal authorities are negotiating for the release of the kidnapping victims, at least four of whom are reported to be teachers.
A local official told CNN the victims "were not directly related to polio vaccination, but had supported the workers as volunteers during the recent vaccination drive, and that's why they had been kidnapped."
Vaccination workers have become targets for extremist groups, thanks in part to a rumor claiming the vaccine sterilizes Muslim children. At least 22 workers have been killed in Pakistan since July 2012. (Via NBC)
And the 2011 operation to kill Osama bin Laden only made matters worse, after Dr. Shakil Afridi was accused of helping the CIA run a fake vaccination campaign in order to gather information about bin Laden's hideout. (Via Al Jazeera)
A Pakistani pediatrician told PBS those allegations have damaged the credibility of vaccine initiatives around the world.
"It has hugely damaged public health programs, not only in Pakistan but in many, many countries. ... They now think vaccine programs might be spy operations."
Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is still endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. Sixteen cases of polio have been reported in the Khyber region alone this year.