PESHAWAR, Pakistan - More than 54 NATO vehicles were destroyed in two separate Taliban attacks in Pakistan on Wednesday as the militants stepped up their efforts to disrupt supply routes into Afghanistan.
In the latest attack at least 26 NATO oil tankers were torched when militants opened fire on a convoy of dozens of vehicles parked in Nowshera in northwestern Pakistan, police said.
Earlier militants attacked a depot housing 40 NATO oil tankers on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta, killing a member of staff and destroying at least 18 vehicles.
In Islamabad, meanwhile, the United States ambassador apologized for the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers in a helicopter strike last week which led to the main border crossing into Afghanistan for NATO trucks being closed, causing more disruption to supplies.
The Nowshera incident was the fifth of its kind in a week, with around 100 vehicles torched and four people killed so far.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for both of Wednesday's attacks, along with the previous raids.
Two US missile strikes Wednesday killed eight people in Pakistan's tribal northwest - home to an alleged European terror plot.
A security official said two missiles hit a militant compound in Miranshah, the main town in tribal North Waziristan, where foreign militants are believed to have hatched the plan to launch Mumbai-style attacks on European cities.
Hours later at least three militants were killed in a drone strike on a house in Mir Ali, in the same area, security officials said.
The US has massively ramped up its drone campaign in Pakistan's lawless northwest tribal region on the Afghan border, which it calls the global headquarters of al-Qaida.
Pakistani authorities have reported 26 attacks since Sept 3 which have killed around 150 people in the region, a hub for homegrown and foreign militants fighting in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Hussein Haqqani, told the BBC that the increase in strikes in North Waziristan came after intelligence agencies uncovered the plot to "attack multiple targets in Europe".
He also said that a drone strike on Monday in the district which killed eight militants, including five Germans, was linked to the plot.
The al-Qaida plot reportedly targets Britain, France and Germany with a wave of commando-style attacks on key landmarks including Paris's Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral and Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
French police on Tuesday arrested 12 people and seized guns in a series of anti-terror raids.
The US does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.
The latest tanker attacks came as the main land route for NATO supplies crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan remained closed for a seventh day running.
Pakistan shut the route at Torkham in protest at a cross-border NATO helicopter attack that killed at least two Pakistani soldiers.
The US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, apologized on Wednesday for their deaths, describing the incident as a "tragic accident".
In Afghanistan, the US-led International Security Assistance Force said its forces had believed they were acting in self-defence and its commander, US General David Petraeus, said it would work with Pakistan "to ensure this doesn't happen again."
Some 6,500 lorries are at a standstill, Khyber transport association president Shakirullah Afridi told AFP by telephone.
"The problem is that American drone attacks are increasing and the Taliban are now taking revenge on us. We have no place to go," said Afridi.
(China Daily 10/08/2010 page11)