Suspected Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan opened fire on an oil tanker used to supply fuel to foreign forces in Afghanistan, killing three people, local officials said yesterday.
Two drivers and one assistant were killed in the incident late on Friday in the Khyber tribal district, located on the main supply route into Afghanistan, where NATO and US forces are battling a Taliban insurgency, the officials said.
Local administration official Rahat Gul blamed the attack — the latest in a series of increasingly sophisticated strikes on NATO and US supply vehicles — on Taliban militants. The empty tanker was burned in the incident.
In the same tribal district, a bomb exploded near a NATO supply convoy but the blast did not cause any damage or casualties, a security official said.
“The bomb was meant to target the convoy, but luckily, no damage was done,” the official said.
Militants have staged spectacular attacks in recent weeks on NATO supply depots outside the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, torching hundreds of vehicles and containers destined for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
The NATO and US-led forces in Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Pakistan for their supplies and equipment, as about 80 percent of the gear is transported through the country.
Meanwhile, three Danish soldiers serving with NATO were killed and one injured on Friday when their vehicle was hit by an explosion in southern Helmand Province, the Danish military said.
“Three Danish soldiers ... in the Danish battalion were killed and one was injured on Friday afternoon when their armored vehicle drove over a roadside bomb or mine,” the military said in a statement.
The blast occurred near the town of Gereshk.
The injured soldier was transported to a field hospital at Camp Bastion for treatment, the military said.
The deaths bring to 21 the number of Danish troops killed in the country since Copenhagen deployed soldiers there as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in 2001 — one of the highest per-capita death tolls among coalition forces.
Denmark has some 700 troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are stationed in Helmand Province under British command.
In London, British Defence Secretary John Hutton compared the Taliban and al-Qaeda to the Nazis and said Western forces faced a long fight to defeat insurgents in Afghanistan, in an interview yesterday.
Hutton told the Times newspaper that troops in the violence-scarred country were defending British values in the same way they did in World War II.
“We know that we must tackle the threat at source, it is not just going to go away,” he said.
“It is a struggle against fanatics that may not challenge our borders but challenges our way of life in the same way the Nazis did,” he said.
After Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed on Thursday that most British forces would pull out of Iraq by the end of July, Hutton said British soldiers would be in Afghanistan for the long haul.
“We will stay there as long as is necessary to secure all of our objectives — it’s going to be years,” the minister said.
His words hinted at the UK’s willingness to add troops to its existing 8,000-strong contingent in Afghanistan, where fighting against a resurgent Taliban has cost the lives of 134 British servicemen.
“The key thing now is not that the Taliban or al-Qaeda can defeat us in Afghanistan, their tactic is to outlast us,” Hutton said.