Nato tankers torched in Pakistan

Nato tankers torched in Pakistan

 Police collect bullets shells next to burning oil tankers in  Shikarpur, Sindh province, on 1 October 2010
M Ilyas Khan BBC News, Islamabad
This is thought to be the first incident of its kind in the southern supply route town of Shikarpur. Suspected militants in southern Pakistan have destroyed at least 27 tankers carrying fuel for Nato forces in Afghanistan, officials said.
There have been hundreds of similar attacks in Pakistan over the last few years but our correspondent says this is the first one in Sindh province.
It is not clear if it is linked to a cross-border air strike by Nato that killed three Pakistani troops.
Pakistan has blocked supply routes to Afghanistan after Thursday’s air raid.
No-one has claimed responsibility for Friday morning’s raid in the southern town of Shikarpur.
The town’s district police chief, Abdul Hameed Khosa, told the BBC the oil tankers – which picked up their load in the southern port of Karachi – were parked in a petrol station at the time of the attack.
Up to 15 gunmen opened fire to scare away the drivers, before torching the vehicles, said witnesses.
Attacks on Nato supply convoys are rare in southern and central Pakistan, so security forces do not provide the escort that is routine for supply convoys in the north-west of the country.
Previous raids have happened mainly in the north-west, at Peshawar and the Khyber tribal region, or in the south-western province of Balochistan.
The attack on Nato supplies in northern parts of Pakistan’s Sindh province is the first of its kind.
Truckers bound for southern Afghanistan have been using the Shikarpur route because another route via Khuzdar in Balochistan has been a scene of numerous attacks on Nato shipments.
There are no strong religious groups or militant networks operating in Shikarpur town.
But there have been a few protests over the presence of American troops in a nearby airbase.
Following Thursday’s cross-border Nato helicopter attack which killed three Pakistani soldiers, Islamabad ordered the closure of the Khyber Pass border crossing into Afghanistan.
Nato said its aircraft had hit back after coming under small-arms fire from what it thought were insurgents.
But the Pakistani military said its soldiers had fired shots to warn the helicopters that they had crossed into Pakistani airspace.
It was the third time in less than a week that Nato helicopters had pursued militants over the Pakistani border and fired on targets.
Pakistani officials say they have shut the Torkham border crossing in Khyber tribal agency to ensure Nato vehicles are not attacked by the Taliban.
A long queue of Nato vehicles is now waiting to drive over the border.
The other main Nato crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan – Chaman in Balochistan – remains open.
It is not clear whether the tanker convoy attacked on Friday was heading for Torkham or Chaman.
Nato says the trucks passing through Pakistan carry fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
The alliance and the US have other supply routes into Afghanistan, but the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.

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