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NATO oil tanker goes up in flames after Afghan Taliban ambush… but instead of running away, locals grab as many petrol cans as they can carry and siphon off fuel
16:24 GMT, 15 December 2012
These extraordinary pictures show the continuing Taliban threat in Afghanistan – and the opportunistic spirit residents must show if they are to survive in the war-torn land.
They depict the aftermath of an attack on an oil tanker today, apparently targeted by Taliban fighters while on its way to deliver fuel to NATO soldiers.
While the vessel was still burning, locals lined up with buckets and jerrycans to siphon off oil and take it home.
Opportunistic: Afghan locals lining up to siphon off fuel from a NATO oil tanker on Saturday
Destroyed: The vehicle was ambushed and blown up by Taliban militants on its way to supply Western troops
The tanker was ambushed on Saturday as it passed through Doshi district in Baghlan province, in the north of the country.
A group of gunmen opened fire on the vehicle until it burst into flame and had to be abandoned.
Although the attackers have not been formally identified, locals apparently said that they were Taliban militants who had targeted the tanker in an effort to disrupt NATO's ongoing efforts to reconstruct the country's infrastructure while cracking down on terrorist attacks.
Windfall: Poverty-stricken locals were quick to take advantage of the free fuel on offer
Blaze: The scavengers did not wait until the oil fire had died down before they collected their fuel bonanza
Guard: Police looked on as locals took fuel from the tanker in Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan
'Unidentified armed men targeted an oil tanker with assault rifle in Dushi district today morning, burning the oil tanker,' police spokesman Sayed Zaman Hussaini told Xinhua.
He added that an investigation into the incident is currently under way.
Police were pictured guarding the damaged tanker and looking on as locals took fuel away from it.
While the residents may have been taking advantage of the Taliban attack, it would be a mistake to conclude that they are necessarily anti-Western or pro-jihadist.
Queuing up: But the Afghans taking advantage of the Taliban attack are not necessarily anti-Western
Landscape: While the identity of the attackers has not been officially confirmed, they are believed to have been Taliban insurgents
Instead, like most Afghans, they are simply taking advantage of whatever situation prevails to help themselves and their family – often the only way to sustain a livelihood in the violent nation whose economy has been destroyed by decades of war.
Despite the West's promise to withdraw all troops from the country by the end of 2014, the 11-year war has recently shown little sign of slowing down.
A Pentagon report revealed this week that 2,700 civilians were killed during the 2012 fighting season – 93 per cent of them dead at the hands of the Taliban.