Pakistan Militants Hit NATO Convoy
Jane Perlez – New York Times October 4, 2010
More than a dozen oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were torched in Rawalpindi early on Monday, not far from the national capital and the headquarters of the Pakistani military, police said.
The attack was the second on NATO vehicles since Pakistan closed a major border crossing to Afghanistan last week in protest over a series of strikes by NATO helicopters on Pakistani border posts.
The closing of the border has resulted in a slowdown of supplies to American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and has shown the leverage Pakistan holds over the flow of equipment to the war effort.
Television footage showed firefighters soon after midnight struggling to douse the flames of the trucks waiting at a refueling station in Rawalpindi.
A group of eight assailants attacked the trucks, according to Mir Waiz, a police officer from Islamabad. Three people were killed in the attack, presumably drivers, Mr. Waiz said.
The attackers were “terrorists,” Mr. Waiz said. After the closure of the border last week, Pakistani media reported that Pakistani Taliban were responsible for the attacks.
The interior minister, Rehman Malik, appealed on Monday for an end to the attacks, saying in a television interview that the drivers of the trucks were Muslims.
The route between Karachi and the border crossing at Torkham in the Khyber area of Pakistan’s tribal region is a vital supply line carrying much of the non lethal equipment — fuel, food, water and vehicles — for the war in landlocked Afghanistan.
Trucks and fuel tankers have been attacked in the past, and the owners of trucking companies in Karachi have said they pay considerable money to militant groups in an effort to keep the route safe.
The United States has tried to reduce the dependency on the Pakistani supply line by seeking alternative routes through Central Asia, but with little success.
American and Pakistani officials said during the weekend they were conducting a joint investigation into the helicopter strikes on the border posts last week that killed three Pakistani soldiers of the Frontier Corps.
Two senior Pakistani military officers arrived in Kabul on Saturday to join the inquiry that was called in an effort to cool the mounting tensions between the United States and Pakistan over the border incidents.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said there was no firm date for reopening the border.
“The supply has been suspended because of security reasons and it will be resumed as soon as these reasons are addressed,” he said.
In Brussels on Monday, the NATO secretary-general apologized on Monday for the three deaths last week and said he hoped Pakistan would reopen the border quickly, news agencies reported.
“I expressed my regret for the incident last week in which Pakistani soldiers lost their lives,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “I expressed my hope the border will be open for supplies as soon as possible,” Reuters reported.
Last updated 06/10/2010