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20 NATO tankers destroyed in Pakistan

By Rezaul H Laskar
October 06, 2010 21:24 IST
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The Pakistani Taliban stepped up attacks on NATO vehicles and oil-tankers carrying essentials for US-led troops in Afghanistan destroying upto 80 trucks in five days and killing a driver in a major assault since Pakistan closed a key border crossing almost a week ago.

Twenty tankers which were destroyed were on their way to Afghanistan, and were attacked on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, early on Wednesday morning, Deputy Inspector General of Police Hamid Shakil said. 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. In Wednesday's attack, almost 20 tankers were destroyed but the rest were saved by police, Shakil said. He told reporters that a driver was killed and another injured. He said the attackers came in vehicles and fled after the assault. Fire fighters were called in to extinguish the blaze that erupted during the attack and police said they faced difficulties in their operation.

Three persons were killed and 28 oil tankers were set ablaze when Taliban fighters attacked a convoy ferrying fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan in Pakistan's garrison city of Rawalpindi on Monday. A spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn attack on the tankers near a defence residential complex in Rawalpindi. The vehicles were attacked when they were parked at Attock oil refinery for refuelling. The attackers, who were riding motorcycles, fired and threw petrol bombs at the tankers. The militants pulled people out of trucks and shot them dead, said truckers who survived the assault. Security guards retaliated and an exchange of fire continued for some time, police said. Islamabad police chief Kalim Imam said three persons were killed. Other officials said eight persons were injured and 28 tankers destroyed in the attack.

Attacks on NATO convoys are not uncommon but are usually concentrated in militant strongholds in the lawless northwest. Another two NATO trucks bound for the second main supply route in southwest were torched by unknown attackers in Baluchistan province. On Friday, 28 tankers were destroyed when militants attacked a convoy at Shikarpur in southern Sindh province. Around 60 NATO supply trucks were destroyed and eight persons were killed in a major attack near Islamabad on June 9.

Militants have stepped up attacks on tankers and trucks in Pakistan after NATO helicopters carried out four air strikes in the tribal belt. Three soldiers died in an air strike on September 27. Pakistan blocked the main supply route for NATO trucks and tankers after the attacks and the ban entered its sixth day yesterday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said the route was blocked due to anger in Pakistan over the air raids and that the supplies would be restored after the security situation is improved. 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.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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