Attack comes after government closed border crossing into Afghanistan:
Suspected militants in southern Pakistan set ablaze a convoy of at least 27 trucks carrying fuel for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Friday, officials said, a day after three soldiers were killed in a cross-border NATO air strike. The attack followed the Pakistani government’s decision to shut a vital border crossing in apparent protest of the NATO incursion, and further underscored the risks posed to Western forces who rely heavily on land routes in Pakistan to supply their troops.
The tankers likely were headed to a second crossing that has remained open and it was not immediately clear if they had been rerouted because of the closure. Pakistan is a crucial ally for the United States in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, but analysts say border incursions and disruptions in NATO supplies underline growing tensions in the relationship.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official said the border incursions could lead to a “total snapping of relations.” Senior local officials blamed “extremists” for the attack on the tankers in the southern town of Shikarpur. About 12 people, their faces covered, opened fire with small arms in the air to scare away the drivers and then set fire to the tankers. “Some of them have been completely destroyed and others partially. But there is no loss of human life,” Shikarpur police chief Abdul Hameed Khoso told Reuters.
Police arrested 10 people after the attack, including five netted from a raid on an Islamic seminary, or madrassa, a senior police official said. The tankers were parked at a gas station on their way to Afghanistan from Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi.
Story: Pakistan blocks NATO trucks after deadly strike
Nisar Ahmed, a police official from Shikarpur, told The Associated Press that the tankers were heading to Quetta, a major city in the southwest.
From there, they likely would have used the Chaman border crossing. Chaman remains open, unlike the Torkham border crossing, which Pakistan ordered closed to NATO trucks Thursday. Chaman has seen fewer attacks than Torkham, but the shutting of one point of entry to Afghanistan creates a bottleneck militants can easily exploit. Militants and ordinary criminals frequently attack NATO supply trucks as they travel across Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO move the vast majority of their non-lethal supplies through Pakistan, but have long insisted the attacks have had relatively little impact. Recent alleged NATO helicopter intrusions on Pakistani soil have raised tensions, however. On Thursday, Pakistan said two NATO choppers fired on one of its border posts in the northwest’s Kurram tribal region, killing three Pakistani soldiers.
It closed the Torkham border crossing, which connects Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region, soon after news of the attack emerged. NATO said its helicopters entered Pakistani airspace and hit a target only after receiving ground fire. The alliance expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers and said both nations would investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported that three people were seriously injured when a United Nations’ aid helicopter made a “hard landing” in southern Sind Province. The aircraft “made a forced landing in Dadu near a lake, part of it touched the water … and had to make a forced landing,” World Food Programme spokesperson Amjad Jamal told NBC News.
He said there were 10-12 people on board and that they were supplying food to flood victims – MSNBC