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Pakistan decides to reopen major supply route for NATO forces

From Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
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Pakistan reopens NATO supply route
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Full traffic is not expected till Monday, an official said
  • The Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for a Saturday convoy attack
  • The closed after a deadly cross-border incident
RELATED TOPICS
  • Pakistan

(CNN) -- The Pakistani government on Saturday announced its decision to reopen the Khyber Pass border into Afghanistan for NATO supply convoys.

"After assessing the security situation in all its aspects, the government has decided to reopen the ... supply from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at Torkham with immediate effect," the government said in a statement.

"Our relevant authorities are now in the process of coordinating with authorities on the other side of the border to ensure smooth resumption of the supply traffic."

A U.S. military official earlier told CNN that the decision was anticipated in Pakistan, but full traffic is not expected until Monday.

Pakistan closed the main land route for NATO supplies crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan after U.S. helicopter strikes across the border killed two Pakistani soldiers.

A report from a NATO and Pakistan assessment team concluded that soldiers fired warning shots to let them know of their presence, but the helicopter crews assumed they were insurgents and fired the shots.

"Two coalition helicopters passed into Pakistan airspace several times," NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a report this week.

"Subsequently, the helicopters fired on a building later identified as a Pakistan border outpost, in response to shots fired from the post. The assessment team considered it most probable that they had fired in an attempt to warn the helicopters of their presence. Unfortunately, following the engagement, it was discovered that the dead and wounded were members of the Pakistan Frontier Scouts."

While the main route has been closed, at least seven attacks on convoys carrying supplies for NATO have taken place in Pakistan. The convoys are generally operated by contracted Pakistani firms, using Pakistani trucks and drivers.

The holdup has been unsettling for truckers who worry about possible militant attacks, driver Fayaz Mohammed said after the route's closure.

"We are very poor people, and these trucks are everything we possess," he said. "And we fear the Taliban might come here and burn our containers."

Shortly after Pakistan shut down the supply route, most trucks just stayed at the side of the road. But many have been moved to safer yards and lots out of fear they might be attacked by militants.

Since October 1, at least six people have been killed in attacks on supply vehicles.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the most recent attack, which took place Saturday in Pakistan's western Baluchistan province.

Assailants attacked 28 oil tankers with a machine gun and rockets, said Meeran Bukhsh, a police official in the Bolan district. Police said the tankers caught fire, and two people were injured.

The attack was carried out by the Pakistani Taliban's special squad on U.S. assets in Pakistan -- particularly fuel trucks for NATO, spokesman Shakir Khan said. The special squad was purportedly founded in response to increased U.S. drone strikes.

"We are very proud of the performance of this squad as they have been able to successfully target NATO convoys all over Pakistan," Khan said.

A second supply route through Chaman in western Pakistan is open, but the Pakistani Taliban has threatened violence on any route used for NATO purposes.

Journalist Nasir Habib and CNN's Fred Pleitgen contributed to this report.

 
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