Landi Kotal: 19 oil tankers gutted Authorities fail to extinguish fire after Friday blast
LANDI KOTAL: The number of oil tankers, destroyed in Friday night blast, rose to 19 as raging flames engulfed almost all the tankers parked in a private parking lot at Torkham border.
Officials conceded that they were short of fire-tenders and other equipment to control the raging fire, which extinguished itself on Saturday morning after reducing to ashes all the 19 oil tankers parked close to each other near the border crossing.
Said Rahim, an oil tanker driver, said that they had to park their vehicles at the bed of a dry stream along roadside as Friday was a public holiday in Afghanistan and they could not get clearance at the other side of the border.
A local militant group Abdulah Ezam Brigade told local journalists by telephone that such attacks would continue as long as the supply to Nato forces continued via Torkham border.
Authorities took into custody at least 11 persons, mostly drivers and cleaners of the affected vehicles, and started investigations.
The intensification of armed attacks against oil tankers on Peshawar-Torkham Highway has raised concerns among the transporters, businessmen and even ordinary people.
The residents of the area and custom clearing agents in Landi Kotal and Torkhum blamed Customs officials on both sides of the border for slow process of clearance which they said caused stopping of oil tankers and containers at unprotected areas.
They alleged that political administration also failed to provide security to the vehicles, which were under persistent threats of militants.
Khyber Transporters Association president Shakir Afridi alleged that administration deputed more than 300 khasadars at Torkham border but it miserably failed to secure oil tankers and containers against such terrorist attacks.
“The khasadars are interested more in minting money at the border instead of performing security job,” he alleged.
Public transport owners operating between Torkham and Peshawar said that they also avoided driving their vehicles along oil tankers for fear of a sudden blast in a moving vehicle on the main road.
Wakil Khan, a coaster driver, said that at least four passenger coaches had been destroyed and innocent passengers killed when they caught fire due to a blast in an oil tanker passing nearby.
In order to ease heavy traffic on Hayatabad-Karkhano Market Road, the government had started construction of a link road between Matani and Jamrud some two years ago. But work on the 16-kilometre long road is going on a snail`s pace due to reasons best known to authorities concerned.
A source at political administration told this scribe that amount of Rs6.6 million had been allocated out of the anti-narcotics fund to divert all Nato vehicles to the new road thus bypassing the Karkhano Market, one of the biggest foreign goods market on the outskirts of Peshawar.
Karkhano Market also bears the brunt of attacks on oil tankers in recent past as at least 12 vehicles were destroyed when militants targeted them in front of the market. A number of shops and a bank branch were also partially destroyed in those incidents.
Haji Hussain Ali, a resident of Landi Kotal and an electronics dealer at the Karkhano Market, said that their businesses had been seriously affected with attacks on Nato vehicles near the market. Customers, especially women, were reluctant to come for shopping after those attacks, he added.
Ali Akbar, a crockery dealer, accused Peshawar police of stopping oil tankers and containers unnecessarily at the checkpost on border with Khyber Agency. It was causing traffic jam at Karkhano Market, he added.
“It is during such road blockade that terrorists carry out attacks”, he said, adding that police should ensure smooth flow of traffic rather than obstructing it.