PESHAWAR, Pakistan – The bullet-riddled body of a female polio worker was recovered Monday in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, with her lips cut and hands broken.
The woman, identified as Salma Farooq, 35, was asleep Sunday night when eight armed men allegedly entered her home and tied-up her husband and tortured her five children.
A senior polio official in Peshawar, Mohamamd Faheem, said the armed men kidnapped Farooq and shifted her to an unknown location.
“The armed men cut her lips and broke her hands and dumped the body in the fields outside Peshawar,” the police official said.
The gruesome murder of a female polio worker enraged local villagers.
“She selflessly served the community and used to go door to door to vaccinate children. Anyone who killed her is the enemy of the poor villagers and deprived them of a medic,” said Niaz Mohamamd.
Government officials in Peshawar said the incident was the “worst” so far to happen to polio workers in the country, but were reluctant to say she killed because of her work.
“At the moment we don’t have any proof that the female worker was killed due to her profession, but we condemn it in the strongest possible words,” said Dr. Jan Baz Afridi, the provincial head of the immunization program.
“We are investigating the brutal murder of the lay worker, but there could some other motives behind her killing,” a police official said.
Over 60 people, including polio workers and security personnel deployed to protect them, have been killed in Pakistan since 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
Militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban oppose immunization and say it is a cover for U.S. spying.
The violent attacks on health workers have hampered the global campaign to eradicate the debilitating disease. Only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 countries in 1988, according to WHO.