Image: Child pedals past a truck
Mohammad Sajjad  /  AP
A Pakistan child pedals past a truck, carrying supplies for NATO forces, parked on the roadside in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday. Some 150 trucks were still waiting for Pakistan to reopen the border crossing at Torkham so they could deliver their supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan.
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updated 10/3/2010 12:45:37 PM ET 2010-10-03T16:45:37

Pakistan will soon reopen a key NATO supply route into Afghanistan that it shut last week after three Pakistani troops were killed in a helicopter strike by the military alliance in a border area, officials said Sunday.

Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing in the country's northwest on Thursday in an apparent protest over the helicopter strike, the third such incursion into Pakistan in less than a week.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said, however, that the route had been closed because of public reaction in the area to the NATO strikes, and that it would be reopened once things normalize.

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"The supply has been suspended because of security reasons and it will be resumed as soon as these reasons are addressed," he told The Associated Press.

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said on CNN's State of the Union program Sunday that he did "not expect this blockade to continue for too long."

Asked whether it could be opened within the next week, he said "I think it will happen in less than that duration."

The Torkham border crossing along the fabled Khyber Pass is used to bring fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan's other main route into landlocked Afghanistan, in Chaman in the southeast, has remained open.

While NATO and the United States have alternative supply routes into Afghanistan, the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient. Some 80 percent of the coalition's non-lethal supplies are transported over Pakistani soil after being unloaded at docks in Karachi, a port city in the south.

Earlier Sunday, the bullet-riddled bodies of three men were found by a road in the restive northwestern tribal region, killed by suspected Pakistani Taliban militants in apparent retaliation for recent U.S. drone strikes in the area, officials and a villager said.

The corpses were discovered in North Waziristan alongside the Miran Shah-Data Khel road that leads to Afghanistan. A note under a rock next to the bodies said, "Anyone who dares spy for the Americans will meet the same fate," according to two intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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Local government official Asghar Khan confirmed the report, but refused to give further details or release the identities or nationalities of the victims.

The slayings came the day after two suspected U.S. missile attacks killed 16 people in the region, part of a recent surge in drone strikes in Pakistan along with stepped-up NATO operations along the frontier. The strikes have been targeting Taliban and al-Qaida militants taking shelter across the porous border in Pakistan out of reach of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.

Over the past five weeks, the U.S. is suspected of having launched at least 23 missile strikes in Pakistani territory, an unprecedented number. Western officials have said some of the CIA-controlled, drone-fired strikes have been aimed at disrupting a terror plot against European cities.

U.S. officials rarely discuss the covert program, but have described it in the past as a highly successful tool that has killed some top militant leaders.

While the Pakistani leadership has quietly accepted drone strikes over the last three years and even provides intelligence for some of them, closing the border crossing was a clear signal it will not compromise on allowing foreign troops or manned aircraft inside its territory.

Polls show deep opposition among Pakistani citizens to the strikes, along with a belief that they kill large numbers of civilians.

Akhtar Nawaz, a local villager, said he did not know who the three slain men were, but that people in the area were convinced they were killed by Taliban militants in response to the American attacks.

"This is because of the high number of drone strikes these days," he said.

___

Associated Press Writer Rasool Dawar in Peshawar contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Pakistan blocks NATO supply route

  1. Closed captioning of: Pakistan blocks NATO supply route

    >>> will a standoff in pakistan today has supplies for the war in afghanistan stranded at the border. pakistan is blocking nato trucks and supplies on major routes. three pakistani soldiers were killed on thursday. nbc's john yang is in kabul, afghanistan and a good day to you or good evening your time. what is the standoff doing the war effort and, of course, to the pakistani/u.s. relations?

    >> alex, there are 150 trucks stopped at this border since -- border crossing since thursday, and this is the busiest border crossing for nato supplies, but nato officials have been telling us that they really haven't begun feeling an effect yet and they say they probably wouldn't begin to feel one for some time. this morning there was a briefing for the top nato military spokesman and here's what he had to say, both about this blockage, this interruption of this supply line and also the more than two dozen nato supply tankers and fuel trucks that have been torched in pakistan .

    >> it does not have any significant impact either on our logistics and supplies nor on the operations, and secondly can i tell you that what we have, if you wish, quote, unquote lost because of the torching tankers is perhaps less than 1% of what we really need.

    >> reporter: but this is, of course, another complication in an already very complicated relationship between pakistan and the united states and the west. they are angry over the increased military activity in the northwest territories of pakistan , the tribal regions, where the united states feels the insurgents have to be driven out of their safe havens from which they launch attacks into afghanistan in order to turn the war around, and they feel that pakistan either is unwilling or unable to do the job. now, a team of the things that figured this was an attack last week killed three pakistani soldiers. there is now a nato coalition team investigating that on the ground in pakistan . pakistani officials hope that this can be cleared up within the next week. alex.

    >> >> the investigation is a concern that it was an accident. or was it a targeted attack that killed those three pakistani soldiers?

    >> yeah. what it was is the pakistanis say it was a nato helicopter that shot them -- shot these three soldiers. nato admits that they had an operation in the area, that they did cross the border, but they have not yet made that final leap to say to say that, yes, it was their forces that soldiers.

    >> okay. the investigation will probably get the answers there. john yang , thanks so much from kabul.

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