(Reuters) – Pakistani authorities blocked a vital supply route for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan on Thursday, angered by a cross-border NATO airstrike that killed three Pakistani soldiers, officials said.
Trucks and fuel tankers for foreign forces in Afghanistan were stopped at Torkham border post in Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar, hours after the raid, the fourth reported by Pakistani authorities in recent days.
“Yes, the NATO supplies have been stopped. It has been done locally,” a senior security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. A spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, however, said none of its helicopters had crossed into Pakistani airspace. The incident was under investigation. Pakistan is a crucial ally for the United States in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, but analysts say the move to disrupt the supply route underlines tensions in the relationship.The bulk of military supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan moves through Pakistan. Early on Thursday, two NATO helicopters from Afghanistan attacked a border village in Pakistan’s Kurram region, the Pakistani security official said. “The helicopters shelled the area for about 25 minutes. Three of our soldiers manning a border post were killed and three wounded,” he said.
But ISAF spokeswoman Major Sunset Belinsky said the helicopters targeted militants in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province, opposite Kurram, and did not cross into Pakistan. Pakistan’s military had informed ISAF that their border forces had been struck in the attack, she said in a statement. “ISAF is working with Pakistan to ascertain if the two events are linked. The matter remains under investigation,” she said. It was the fourth possible aerial incursion since last week.
The border row occurred as CIA chief Leon Panetta began a previously scheduled visit to Pakistan for talks with top military and political figures.
Panetta met the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, officials said. He was expected to meet army chief General Ashfaq Kayani later – Reuters