South Asia

Pakistan 'to reopen key Nato Afghanistan supply route'

Truck driver watches as fuel tankers burn after they were set ablaze at Sibi, in the Balochistan area of Pakistan
Image caption Tankers parked near a restaurant were attacked overnight at Sibi, in Balochistan

Pakistan will reopen a crucial overland supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan with immediate effect, the country's foreign ministry has said.

The border crossing at Torkham was closed 10 days ago in protest at a Nato helicopter attack inside Pakistan, which left two Pakistani soldiers dead.

Since then, the Pakistani Taliban have stepped up attacks on convoys with Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan.

Earlier, gunmen destroyed almost 30 tankers carrying fuel in Balochistan.

In a short statement issued on Saturday, the Pakistani foreign ministry said it had decided to reopen the Khyber Pass crossing after assessing the security situation in all its aspects".

"Our relevant authorities are now in the process of co-ordinating with authorities on the other side of the border to ensure smooth resumption of the supply traffic," the statement added.

US embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire told the Associated Press that his country welcomed the "positive development".

But he said that it was not likely that the flow of supplies would resume before Monday, as the border was normally closed on Sundays.


On Wednesday, the US apologised for the helicopter attack after a Nato investigation found that the "tragic event could have been avoided with better Coalition force co-ordination with the Pakistan military".

The US said it aircraft had mistaken the Pakistani Frontier Scouts for insurgents they were pursuing, crossed into Pakistan and opened fire.

"This business is getting so dangerous - the recent happenings have made us think about not working for Nato because we can't put our lives in constant danger," Shaukat Khan, a lorry driver who has been waiting at Torkham since it closed on 30 September, told AP.

"We are glad to know that the Pakistani authorities have decided to reopen the crossing," he added.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says Nato will certainly be relieved at the reopening of the Khyber Pass to its lorries, but it will still have huge concerns about its supply routes through Pakistan.

Pakistani militants have shown no signs of ending their campaign to disrupt supplies, our correspondent says.

Earlier on Saturday, about 20 gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades attacked a tanker convoy in Mithri, about 200km (120 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

"The attackers first fired shots and then fired small rockets at the tankers. Twenty-eight to 29 tankers caught fire," local official Neem Sherwani told the Reuters news agency.

The tankers were on their way to the smaller crossing at Chaman, which is open but is not as convenient for supplies bound for Kabul.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the latest raid. But the Pakistani Taliban have said they were behind similar attacks in the past week, which have destroyed more than 100 Nato fuel tankers and lorries.

Taliban leaders say it is retaliation for recent US air strikes in tribal areas, which are thought to have killed more than 100 of their fighters.

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