PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying NATO troop supplies to Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing a driver in the first attack in Pakistan since Islamabad ended its seven-month blockade of the route, a government official said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban had warned they would target the trucks after the government reopened the supply line earlier this month.
Pakistan closed the route last November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, an incident the U.S. said was a mistake but the Pakistani military claimed was deliberate. Islamabad finally reopened the supply line after the U.S. apologized for the deaths.
Gunmen targeted the trucks as they were passing near a bazaar in the town of Jamrud in the Khyber tribal area, said Faraz Khan, a local government official. Jamrud is located very close to Torkham, one of the two crossings used to transport NATO supplies to Afghanistan.
In addition to the driver who was killed, a second driver and his assistant were wounded, said Khan.
Suspected militants have destroyed hundreds of trucks and killed dozens of people in attacks on NATO convoys over the past decade. But the U.S. military has said the attacks have not had a significant impact on the delivery of supplies to Afghanistan.
The U.S. was keen to get the supply line through Pakistan reopened because during the closure it was forced to rely on a longer route into Afghanistan through Central Asia that cost an additional $100 million per month.
Prior to the November attack, the U.S. and other NATO countries shipped about 30 percent of their nonlethal supplies through Pakistan into southern Afghanistan.
The route between Afghanistan and the southern Pakistani port of Karachi will become even more important as the U.S. and other NATO countries accelerate their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. plans to withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of 2014 and will have to transport tens of thousands of containers filled with equipment and supplies out of the country.
The U.S. held off on apologizing for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers for so long because the Obama administration was worried about criticism from Republicans in a presidential election year. Anger at Pakistan is high in Washington because of the country's alleged support for Taliban militants fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
One of the reasons Pakistan held off on reopening the route was the fear of domestic backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is high. The conflict has severely damaged the already troubled relationship between the two countries.