Gunmen Attack More NATO Supply Trucks in Pakistan
Jane Perlez & Waqar Gillani – New York Times October 6, 2010
Dozens of tankers carrying fuel to Afghanistan for NATO troops were torched near Quetta in western Pakistan on Wednesday, the third major attack on supplies since Pakistan closed one border crossing to Afghanistan a week ago and the first at the only checkpoint that remained open.
[PICTURE: Nato trucks blaze near Quetta Wednesday]
At least one person was killed after three carloads of gunmen fired at the tankers and then burned them, the police said.
“According to eyewitnesses and initial reports some terrorists came on vehicles a few minutes before morning prayer and started firing and then burned some of the tankers,” the deputy inspector general of Quetta police, Hamid Shakeel said.
About 40 tankers were at the terminal, and about half were saved from the attack, Mr. Shakeel said.
Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze. Live television showed the fire raging hours after the attack.
“We don’t have foam to put out the fire,” the police official said.
Hours after the attack on the tankers at Quetta, Taliban militants claimed responsibility, according to reports on Pakistani television channels.
In a sign that the government was continuing to distance itself from the attacks, the police chief in Quetta, Malik Muhammad Iqbal said it was not the responsibility of the government to provide security for the convoys. In the past few days, senior police officers have said the safety of the trucks lay with the fleet owners who had signed contracts with NATO.
The standoff between the government and NATO continued on Wednesday with no definitive word from Pakistan about when the border at Torkham in the Khyber region would be reopened.
That crossing was closed last week in protest over NATO helicopter strikes against a mountainous border post at Kurram manned by Pakistani paramilitary soldiers.
A second crossing at Chaman, near Quetta, where the tankers were attacked Wednesday morning, has remained open in the past week.
Unknown assailants, never identified or captured by the police, have attacked and torched NATO oil tankers three times since the closure and there have been several other more minor incidents against the convoys. The route is a vital supply line for NATO to carry non-lethal equipment such as food, clothing and vehicles.
The closure of the Torkham crossing has been used by Pakistan to demonstrate its leverage over the NATO supply route that courses from the port of Karachi to the Khyber region.
Haggling over the outcome of a joint Pakistan-NATO inquiry into the helicopter attacks appeared to be holding up the reopening of the Torkham crossing, the major English language newspaper, Dawn, reported on Wednesday.
Pakistan was demanding an apology from NATO for the helicopter attacks, but NATO was only willing to offer regrets, the newspaper said.
Pakistani officials have stressed that the helicopter attacks, in which three paramilitary soldiers died, were an unacceptable infringement of the nation’s sovereignty.
Last updated 08/10/2010