May 21 (UPI) -- At leave five people were left dead in Afghanistan while clearing mines from the route of a planned natural gas pipeline, Afghan media reported Monday.
Khaama Press reported that five people were killed by area militants while conducting de-mining operations for the so-called TAPI pipeline in southern Kandahar province. One other person was abducted by militants in the attack.
"No individual or group, including the Taliban militants, has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident," the report read.
The Taliban in late 2016 said it was directing its fighters to provide support for major government projects like the $3 billion Mes Aynak copper mine near the capital city and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-India-Pakistan natural gas pipeline.
The planned route of the pipeline takes it through Afghanistan's Kandahar province, where the Taliban are fighting international forces and the Afghan government.
TAPI, dubbed by New Delhi as a new "Silk Road," will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas field. Pakistan's government said it needs outside support to ensure the pipeline's section through Afghanistan is secure.
Turkmenistan is expected to send up to 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for the next 30 years once the pipeline is completed. Hailed as essential for regional economic and energy development, the project has drawn Western support in a region where Iran and Russia play a dominant energy role.
Project leaders include Turkmengaz, the consortium leader and state-run gas company of Turkmenistan, and Indian energy company GAIL.
The Asian Development Bank was appointed as the transaction adviser for the pipeline in 2013.