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Pakistan reopens border in key NATO supply route

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said Saturday it will reopen a key border crossing and allow convoys to resume delivering supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan, ending a 10-day blockade during which trucks were stranded on their way to the border and almost 150 were destroyed by attackers.

Since the closure there have been almost daily attacks on the scores of trucks on their way to Torkham from the port city of Karachi. Just hours before the announcement of the reopening, gunmen armed with a rocket torched 29 tankers carrying NATO fuel supplies that had been stopped outside a roadside restaurant in a southwestern province, local official Abdul Mateen said. It was unclear who was behind the latest attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for similar assaults on NATO supplies.

Pakistan is a key supply route for fuel, military vehicles, spare parts and other nonlethal supplies for NATO coalition troops in landlocked Afghanistan, though the coalition has been developing alternate supply routes. The United States has said the Torkham closure has not affected its ability to send supplies, but the blockade raised tensions with Pakistan.

Pakistan closed the northwest crossing at Torkham on Sept. 30 in an apparent protest over a NATO helicopter incursion that killed two Pakistani soldiers. The United States on Wednesday apologized for the September helicopter strike in which an investigation concluded the "tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistan military." Pakistan's Foreign Office then announced Saturday it had decided to reopen the crossing.

The border is normally closed on Sundays, so Monday appeared to be the earliest the crossings would resume, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire, who welcomed what he called a "positive development." NATO headquarters in Kabul had no comment.

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