Police say gunmen torch 8 NATO oil tankers, kill a driver in latest such attack in Pakistan.

By Abdul Sattar, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Police: NATO supplies hit again in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan — Gunmen in southwest Pakistan torched eight NATO oil tankers and shot dead a driver Wednesday, police said, in the latest strike against supply convoys heading for Afghanistan since Pakistan shut a key border crossing to international forces last week.

The attack occurred in a parking area of a roadside hotel on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. At least eight trucks were on fire, and around a dozen others were parked nearby, senior police official Hamid Shakil said. Firefighters were trying to douse the flames.

The attacks have further raised tensions already elevated by Pakistan’s decision to close the Torkham crossing in the northwest in apparent reaction to alleged NATO helicopter strikes on its territory. One of those NATO strikes killed three Pakistani paramilitary soldiers.

The tankers hit Wednesday were believed headed for a smaller border crossing at Chaman that remains open.

It was unclear who was behind the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for similar assaults on NATO supplies, including one before dawn Monday that killed four people. The militants claimed it was revenge for the NATO helicopter incursions.

Counting Wednesday, there have been at least six attacks on the supply convoys since the Torkham closure — four of them that were heading to that crossing and two on their way to Chaman in the southwest.

The events of the last week have exposed the often-strained nature of the alliance between Pakistan and the United States. But analysts doubt it will reach a breaking point because each side is so reliant on the other.

In addition to safe passage for NATO supplies, the U.S. needs Pakistan to help target Taliban and al-Qaida militants who stage cross-border attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan. In return, Pakistan receives billions of dollars in military and civilian assistance that help keep its economy afloat.

Both American and Pakistani officials have predicted the Torkham border crossing will reopen within a few days.

NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tried to reduce the tension between the two sides Monday by apologizing for last week’s helicopter attack that killed Pakistani troops, saying the casualties were “unintended” and that a joint investigation was under way.

Associated Press Writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar.

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