An attack by Taliban militants on trucks supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan killed three people on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital early Monday and destroyed at least four fuel tankers, police said.
Gunmen opened fire on tankers parked at a truck stop near Islamabad, causing several to burst into flames. In addition to those destroyed, 13 were damaged in the early-morning attack, said Bin Yamin, deputy inspector general of Islamabad police.
Yamin said six people were injured in the attack. He would not say whether the dead and injured were drivers or bystanders. At least two people were arrested, he said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, the latest in a string of attacks on trucks bottlenecked by the shutdown of a vital border crossing in the Khyber Pass area.
The flow of trucks ferrying supplies to North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan has been interrupted since Thursday, when Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham checkpoint because of recent incursions by NATO helicopters into Pakistani territory.
Troops aboard NATO helicopters killed three Pakistani border soldiers and injured three others Thursday. NATO officials said the aircraft crew acted in self-defense after being fired at from a location on the Pakistani side of the border. But Pakistan said NATO forces were aware of the site of the checkpoint.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Brussels on Monday and apologized for the attack, calling it “unintended.”
“There is a joint investigation underway. We will determine what happened and draw the right lessons,” Rasmussen said. “I expressed my hope that the border will be open for supplies as soon as possible.”
Since the closing of the Torkham crossing, militants have carried out four attacks on NATO supply trucks. A lengthy shutdown of Torkham would deprive NATO of a vital supply route and further aggravate already tense relations between Washington and Islamabad. About 80% of NATO’s noncombat supplies bound for Afghanistan move by truck through Pakistan.
In addition to the attack near Islamabad, militants on Monday fired on two trucks carrying NATO supplies through southwestern Pakistan, according to news reports. At least one driver was killed. The trucks were headed for Pakistan’s other primary border crossing into Aghanistan, at Chaman, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. One of the trucks was carrying water. The cargo of the other vehicle was not known.
Militants often carry out attacks on Afghan-bound NATO supply convoys moving through Pakistan, where authorities say it is difficult to provide round-the-clock security for the trucks.
Special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.