The Taliban destroyed 28 NATO fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan in an attack near Islamabad. The attack is the second of its kind since Pakistan closed down the Khyber Pass on Sept. 30 in protest against US cross-border attacks on Haqqani Network fighters fleeing from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
Suspected Taliban fighters hit the fuel tankers during a midnight raid on a compound on the outskirts of Pakistan’s capital. Three people were reported killed and 28 tankers burned in the aftermath of the attack. The suspected Taliban fighters escaped. It is unclear if Pakistani security forces provided any security for the fuel tankers.
The Taliban, commanded by Hakeemullah Mehsud, claimed the Islamabad attack and vowed to carry out further attacks on convoys in Pakistan.
“We will carry out more such attacks in future,” Azam Tariq, Hakeemullah’s spokesman, told AFP. We will not allow the use of Pakistani soil as a supply route for NATO troops based in Afghanistan.”
Tariq also stated the attacks on NATO convoys were designed “to avenge drone attacks” from US Predators and Reapers that have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan.
The Islamabad attack took place just two days after a nearly identical raid by the Taliban in the city of Shikarpur in Sindh province in the Afghan south. More than 36 fuel tankers and several container trucks were destroyed.
The Taliban spokesman Tariq also claimed the Shikarpur attack, and said a group based in Sindh known as the Siyara Group carried out the attack.
“They were local militants and had acquired training in South Waziristan and returned to their native towns to start attacks on government and security installations,” Tariq told The News.
The Taliban struck at a NATO convoy outside Islamabad earlier this year, when a 15-man squad of Taliban hit a truck stop in Tarnol on June 9. Eight people, including two drivers, were killed in the attack, while more than 30 NATO fuel and supply trucks were destroyed. The Taliban have consistently hit NATO convoys and trucks in Peshawar, Khyber, and Quetta.
The latest two strikes took place after the Pakistani government angrily shut down NATO’s supply route through the Khyber Pass, the main passage to NATO troops in Kabul and the surrounding areas. The Pakistan government closed the Khyber Pass after US helicopters pursued Haqqani Network fighters across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan three times last week. The Pakistani military claimed that three Frontier Corps troops had been killed in the attacks, and the US military apologized for the attack before an investigation into the incident began.
Today Pakistan’s ambassador to the US said the supply route would “open relatively quickly,” perhaps in “less than a week.”