Taliban militants targeted a convoy of the NATO supply vehicles and torched 50 oil tankers in northwest Pakistan, hours after a similar attack in the southwest killed a man and destroyed 20 tankers.
The militants attacked the supply vehicles at Khairabad town, located near the border between Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces. A witness said he first heard a powerful blast that was followed by indiscriminate firing. The attackers were travelling in a pick-up truck. Several oil tankers caught fire during the attack. Witness at the site of the attack said 50 tankers were engulfed by flames while only five were left unharmed. However, officials contended that only 26 tankers were hit by gunfire.
The supply vehicles were parked on the Grand Trunk Road for security clearance after entering Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from Punjab when the militants fired rockets at the convoy. The highway was blocked to all traffic following the attack late on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, 20 tankers were destroyed and a man was killed in an attack by suspected militants on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. A group of gunmen opened fire at nearly 40 tankers parked at Akhtarabad along the main highway between Quetta and the border town of Chaman, a witness said.
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the past week's attacks on NATO convoys and threatened more such assaults to avenge the US strikes against them. There has been a sudden upsurge in attacks on NATO oil tankers in Pakistan.
At least 25 tankers were burnt on October 4 near the federal capital Islamabad in an attack that claimed three lives. More than 20 NATO tankers were burnt near Shikarpur in Sindh on October 1. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to suspend the movement of NATO convoys till the security apparatus for them is improved. Pakistan blocked the main supply route for NATO trucks and tankers following air strikes by NATO helicopters and the ban entered its seventh day today. Some 70 per cent of supplies for NATO and US troops and 40 per cent of their fuel requirements are shipped to Afghanistan via Pakistan.