Monday, March 16, 2009

50 armed men attack NATO supplies in Peshawar

Dawn.Com reports

PESHAWAR: Militants in Pakistan set ablaze vehicles bound for Western forces in neighbouring Afghanistan on Monday in the second such attack in two days, police said.

Militants stepped up attacks on the road through northwest Pakistan into land-locked Afghanistan last year, exposing the vulnerability of Western supply links just as the United States was planning a surge of troops to tackle the Taliban.But attacks had tailed off early this year after security forces intensified their efforts against the militants.

In the latest assault, militants barged into a supply depot on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar at around 1:00 am on Monday, overpowered guards and set fire to vehicles, police said.

'About 50 gunmen attacked us ... They first disarmed us and then began setting fire to bulldozers and humvees,' one of he depot's guards, Raza Khan, told Reuters.

'A police team arrived after about an hour and an exchange of fire took place for an hour," he said.

Sixteen bulldozers and humvee patrol vehicles were destroyed, Khan said. Police were assessing the damage, said officer Abdul Rahim.

The US Defense Department says the US military sends 75 per cent of supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 per cent of the fuel for its troops.

The United States has been seeking alternative supply routes for its troops in Afghanistan because of the attacks in Pakistan, even though it says those attacks have not had a great impact on the supply flow.

The route from Peshawar up to the border through the Khyber Pass is the most important of two routes through Pakistan, and it is likely to become even more vital as the United States sends thousands more troops to Afghanistan this year.

On Sunday, militants torched 20 trucks carrying Western forces' supplies in an attack on another depot near Peshawar.

The United States said this month it expected soon to finalise an agreement with Tajikistan that would allow the transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

Russia gave the go ahead this month for the first cargo of non-lethal supplies to cross its territory. The cargo went by rail across Russia and Kazakhstan and into Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.

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