The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for today’s suicide attack at a polio vaccination center in Quetta, which killed more than a dozen people and forced the suspension of the vaccination program. The jihadist group has targeted the polio vaccination program in the past.
The Taliban suicide bomber detonated among a group of policemen who were guarding the anti-polio drive in Satellite Town in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan. Thirteen policeman and one Frontier Corps officer were killed in the attack, Pakistan officials told Dawn.
A statement released on Umar Media, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s propaganda outfit, said a “Special Unit” from the Mujahideen Special Group “successfully targeted forces at Satellite Town, Quetta.”
The Mujahideen Special Group is the Pakistani Taliban’s version of a special forces unit and is often referred to as the “Special Task Force.” This unit is tasked with carrying out assassinations of Pakistani military and political figures, as well as suicide attacks more organized assaults, such as the September 2015 attack on an air force camp in Peshawar.
The Pakistani Taliban has promoted the Mujahideen Special Group and has released footage of the unit going through instruction at its “Mehdi Alaih Rizwan Training Center.” The location of the training camp has not been disclosed, but it is believed to be situated in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The World Health Organization’s anti-polio vaccination program inside Pakistan has been a prime target of the Taliban. Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was one of the first leaders to have opposed polio vaccinations. On his radio program, Falzullah, who is also known as Mullah Radio, denounced polio vaccinations as Western attempts to sterilize Muslim boys.
Other Taliban commanders, including Mullah Bahadar and Mullah Nazir, who was killed in a US drone strike, as well as Pakistani clerics and leaders in the tribal areas, suspended polio vaccinations in areas under their control until the US ceased drone strikes against Taliban, al Qaeda, and other jihadist commanders.
Taliban commanders have also accused vaccination programs as serving as cover for CIA and western operations to target jihadist leaders inside Pakistan.
“In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the US and its allies are running their spying networks in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Agencies] which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes,” a pamphlet issued by Mullah Nazir in June 2012 stated. “Infidel forces are using media, education, and development as a tool to gag Muslims,” the pamphlet continued.
Nazir’s pamphlet referenced Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the US in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Afridi is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence in Pakistan for false charges of supporting the Laskar-e-Islam, an Islamist terror group based in Khyber.
In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban launched a deadly campaign against the WHO’s vaccination program. Eight medical workers were killed while attempting to vaccinate children in Karachi and Pakistan’s northwest. The WHO shut down the anti-polio drive.