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Gunmen burn 50 NATO trucks near Islamabad

Suspected Taliban gunmen in Pakistan set fire to more than 50 trucks carrying supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan, in the first such attack near the capital.
Image: Burnt trucks torched by suspect militants
Local residents examine burned trucks torched by suspect militants in an attack on early Wednesday, in Sangjani, near Islamabad, Pakistan. Anjum Naveed / AP
/ Source: news services

Suspected Taliban gunmen in Pakistan set fire to more than 50 trucks carrying supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan, killing at least seven people in the first such attack near the capital, police said on Wednesday.

The damage was widespread and clearly visible, with most of the vehicles appearing to be military-style trucks, NBC News reported from the scene.

The Taliban have previously attacked trucks carrying supplies for U.S.-led foreign forces in Pakistan's volatile northwest and southwest bordering Afghanistan, but this raid, less than 30 minutes' drive from Islamabad late on Tuesday, was unprecedented.

At least 10 gunmen arrived on motorbikes and small pickup trucks at a depot near Tarnol village, killing drivers and workers. The militants escaped, leaving the shells of supply trucks in flames.

"Seven people were killed and more than 50 trucks were set on fire," police official Ghulam Mustafa said. Six people were wounded.

The trucks were due to carry fuel, food and other supplies to Afghanistan. The trucks do not usually carry arms.

Wave of suicide, bomb attacks
The assault underscores growing insecurity in Pakistan where the Taliban have unleashed a wave of suicide and bomb attacks across the country in retaliation for military offensives on their strongholds in the northwest.

Militants allied to the Pakistani Taliban killed more than 80 people in two brazen attacks on Ahmadiyya, a minority religious sect, in the eastern city of Lahore late last month.

But the latest attack comes after months of relative calm around the heavily guarded Pakistan capital and throws into question how safe Islamabad is from attack.

"This is surprising how close to Islamabad a group of so many militants have come, and got away with it," said Talat Masood, a retired general who is now a security analyst. "It shows there are serious security lapses."

The U.S. military sends 75 percent of its supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel for its troops.

The last attack on a convoy was in April when militants torched 12 lorries and killed four policemen in Punjab province.

Hunt for alternative routes
The attacks, especially in the northwestern Khyber tribal region, have forced NATO to look for alternative routes, including through Central Asia.

Six security personnel were killed late on Tuesday in an attack by militants in the northwestern Orakzai tribal region. The army killed 30 militants in a counter offensive, a spokesman for the paramilitary frontier corps said.

Another six militants and two soldiers were killed in clashes in the Mohmand tribal region near the Afghan border late on Tuesday.