Suspected militants have attacked a NATO convoy outside Pakistan's capital Islamabad, killing at least seven people. Another seven were wounded. The convoy was carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Firemen try to extinguish fire after suspected militants attacked the NATO convoy
Up to a dozen gunmen arrived on motorbikes and small trucks and stormed a depot near Tarnol village, where dozens of NATO supply trucks were parked. Local police said the drivers and workers were resting, when the militants opened fire indiscriminately and set fire to some 60 trucks before escaping. Speaking to reporters, Interior minister Rahman Malik said the targeted truck stand was established a few days ago and that the government was investigating the matter:
"The inquiry is going to look into all the matters, from theft to terrorism and also about this temporary stand and why the police were not informed about it. God willing we will have a report within three days."
Pakistan's Interior minister Rahman Malik
The NATO and US supply convoys have often come under attack in Pakistan in recent years. But those strikes were so far restricted to the volatile northwest and southwest region bordering Afghanistan.
The attack on Tuesday night was the first that occurred close to the capital Islamabad. "I think the militants are always looking for main targets and they strike at places where security is at risk, where nobody feels that there could be an attack at that place," says Rahimullah Yusufzai, a prominent journalist and an expert on militant groups.
Private companies unable to provide security
Hundreds of NATO supplies trucks leave every day from Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi or the northwestern city of Peshawar to Afghanistan. The US sends over 70 percent of its military supplies and 40 percent of the fuel via Pakistan for the troops in the war-torn country.
NATO supply trucks have often been attacked by militants
The convoys are usually escorted by private security companies. But expert Yusufzai says the security provided by the private companies is inadequate.
"The private security guards cannot really fight militants who are heavily armed and who always strike in the night at the convoy," he says. "Sometimes there are reports that these security companies bribe the militants to ensure safe passage. But now the NATO forces are going to increase troops in Afghanistan. The supply will have to be increased too. There will be trucks all the time on road. I think the NATO and Pakistan and all the regional countries will have to gear up and provide more resources to secure these routes."
'Militants can strike back'
The attacks on NATO convoys in the past have already prompted the alliance to look for alternative routes, also via central Asia.
The Pakistani army has intensified its operation in the northwest in recent years
Although the Pakistani military has stepped up its offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, the militants keep hitting back by frequent suicide and bomb attacks.
"Although the militants' strength has been diminished in the tribal areas, in Swat and Malakand, I think they still have a capacity after all these military operations to strike back," says Yusufzai.
Six soldiers were killed on Tuesday in the northwestern tribal agency of Orakzai, when the militants targeted a security post. The army officials said they retaliated immediately, killing at least 30 militants. The military has been waging an offensive against the militants in this semi-autonomous region since late March.
Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein