Islamists kill at least nine women in polio drive

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NINE women involved in vaccinating children against polio were shot dead in northern Nigeria yesterday by gunmen suspected of belonging to Islamist sect, Boko Haram.

Police said the women were giving oral drops to children when attacked early yesterday in Kano, the largest city in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, where vaccines are often distributed house to house.

Islamist clerics have previously claimed the vaccines are part of a western plot to sterlise Muslim girls.

In the first attack, gunmen were seen arriving in three-wheel taxis before opening fire on women in Kano’s Hotoro Hayi district. Witnesses said at least eight women were killed.

In the second attack, in the Unguwa Uku district, four people were killed, witnesses said.

However a police spokesman said only nine people, all of them women distributing vaccines, were killed in both attacks.

Confusion around death tolls is common in Nigeria, where police often downplay casualties and bodies are quickly buried by families before sunset, in line with Muslim tradition.

While police said they had no immediate suspects for the attacks, witnesses said they believed Boko Haram was behind the shootings. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of the north, has been behind a series of violent attacks across northern Nigeria.

It was blamed for killing at least 792 people last year in Nigeria, including at least 185 in a massive attack in Kano last January. There have been other attacks targeting polio vaccinators in Kano.

In October, two officers guarding a polio immunisation programme were shot and killed, police said.