In July, twin suicide bombers in the eastern city of Lahore attacked Data Darbar, Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrine, killing 47 people and wounding 180.
That attack — also on a Thursday — infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians. In the aftermath, even amid fury against militants, many also blamed the U.S. presence in Afghanistan for fueling Islamist violence in their nation.
The U.S. has apologized and expressed condolences Wednesday for the Sept. 30 attack that killed two Pakistan border guards, and said the helicopters mistook them for insurgents being pursued across the border from Afghanistan.
The apologies raised expectations that the Torkham border crossing along the famed Khyber Pass could reopen very soon. But Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said at a press conference Thursday that authorities were still evaluating the situation and would make a decision “in due course.”
Pakistan closed Torkham to NATO supply convoys on the same day as the helicopter attack, leaving hundreds of trucks stranded alongside the country’s highways or stuck in traffic on the way to the one route into Afghanistan from the south that has remained open. Suspected militants have taken advantage of the impasse to attack stranded or rerouted trucks. Gunmen torched 70 fuel tankers and killed a driver in two attacks Wednesday.
NATO officials have insisted the border closure has not caused supply problems for troops since hundreds of trucks still enter Afghanistan each day through the Chaman crossing in southwestern Pakistan and via Central Asian states.
But reopening Torkham is definitely a priority for NATO because it is the main crossing in Pakistan, the country through which NATO ships the majority of its supplies into Afghanistan. Other routes are more expensive and logistically difficult.
One Thursday targeted a vehicle in a thickly forested area near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal region, two Pakistani intelligence officials said. The identities of the dead were not immediately known, but the territory is believed to be controlled by Pakistani Taliban militants.
The strike would be the sixth suspected missile attack this month, keeping up a recent surge in such CIA-run, drone-fired attacks. In September, the U.S. is believed to have launched at least 21 such attacks, an unprecedented number and nearly all in North Waziristan.
The two officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Associated Press writers Sebastian Abbot and Rasool Dawar in Islamabad contributed to this report.