4th October 2010, 12:20
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Debut: Nov 2007
Taliban claim attacks on NATO convoys in Pakistan
(AFP) – 7 hours ago
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — Pakistani Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for two recent attacks on NATO supply convoys in Pakistan and threatened to carry out more, a spokesman said.
"We accept responsibility for the attacks on the NATO supply trucks and tankers," Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP.
"I am talking about attacks both in Sindh and in Islamabad," he said in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.
"We will carry out more such attacks in future. We will not allow the use of Pakistani soil as a supply route for NATO troops based in Afghanistan," he said.
"This is also to avenge drone attacks," he added.
Three people were killed on Monday and up to eight others wounded when about 20 NATO oil tankers were attacked and set ablaze near the Pakistani capital, in the second mass torching in days.
Television pictures showed towering flames springing from the trucks that were filling up just outside Islamabad en route to Afghanistan early in the morning when gunmen attacked the convoy with molotov cocktails.
It follows a similar incident on Friday in the south, when heavily armed gunmen set ablaze more than two dozen trucks and tankers carrying fuel for the 152,000-strong foreign forces fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.
"Three people have died, eight are injured. They have all received bullet injuries and are mostly drivers and their helpers," police emergency official Mohammad Ahad told AFP by telephone.
The unknown number of gunmen fled the scene, Ahad said, and Geo television showed fire brigades spraying the burning tankers that had set nearby trees and bushes ablaze, lighting up the night sky.
Ambushes of NATO convoys are not uncommon, but are normally concentrated in strongholds of Islamist militants in the lawless northwest, where Pakistan has closed a key land crossing into Afghanistan after a cross-border NATO attack.
Mohammad Ilyas, the doctor in charge of emergency care in Rawalpindi civil hospital, said: "We received three dead bodies and seven wounded.
"They all had bullet wounds. Two of them were in serious condition but they are improving and we hope they will be in a stable condition soon."
Islamabad police chief Omar Hayat confirmed the death toll and said the tankers were attacked as they were parked up at the Attock oil refinery outside the capital for refuelling.
"As they were waiting to get the oil, some people opened fire and threw molotov cocktails at the tankers. The security guards retaliated and the gunfire continued for some time," said Hayat.
The assault came after Pakistan on Sunday said the closed transit route will reopen "relatively quickly".
Pakistan blocked the crossing on Thursday after a NATO helicopter strike that Islamabad says killed three of its soldiers. The alliance said it shot back in self-defence.
After a flurry of phone calls and pressure from ally the US, Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, told CNN's "State of the Union" programme that the crossing would reopen in "less than a week".
"I think the supply line will be open relatively quickly," he said.
He added: "It's not a blockade. It's just a temporary suspension of the convoys moving through.
"I do not expect this blockade to continue for too long."
The Khyber pass at Torkham is on one of the key NATO supply routes through Pakistan into war-torn Afghanistan.
The cross-border raid was the fourth in a week by NATO helicopters pursuing militants into Pakistan, which condemned the action as a serious breach of its sovereignty, threatening to destabilise ties with backer Washington.
A two-member Pakistan team led by Brigadier Usman Khattak, deputy inspector general of the Frontier Corps, travelled to Afghanistan on Saturday to join an investigation into the incident by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US officials, an official told AFP.
Queues of more than 200 trucks and oil tankers have formed at the border in the northwest tribal area of Kurram as they wait to deliver supplies.
The envoy Haqqani said that he had received a phone call from General David Petraeus, the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"He understands Pakistan has not stopped it as a political retaliation but only to make convoys more secure," Haqqani said, adding the issue was unlikely to cause any permanent damage to future US-Pakistan cooperation.
"Pakistan is an American ally. America depends on Pakistan," Haqqani said.
"We can and do not do everything the Americans think we should do because sometimes we don't have the capacity, sometimes we don't have the means," he said.
Washington has classified Pakistan's tribal belt on the Afghan border as a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda, a hub of militants fighting in Afghanistan and the most dangerous place on Earth.