Monday, December 08, 2008

Nato supplies torched in Pakistan

Al Jazeera, Dec 8, 2008

About 100 lorries and shipping containers were torched in an earlier attack [AFP]

A terminal for lorries used to supply Nato and US forces in Afghanistan has been attacked in northwest Pakistan, the second such incident in as many days.

Witnesses said scores of containers full of supplies were burned in Monday’s attack at a site in the city of Peshawar.

Altaf Hussain, a labourer at the terminal, said there was a loud explosion and several fighters stormed the facility.

“The militants came just past midnight, firing in the air, sprinkled petrol on containers and then set them on fire,” Mohammad Zaman, a security guard at the terminal on the Peshawar ring road, said.

“They told us they would not harm us, but they asked us not to work for the Americans.”

Rockets were also fired at two vehicles carrying goods intended for delivery to Nato forces as they travelled along the ring road overnight.

The route from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass to the border town of Torkham is the most important supply line for US and Nato forces battling Taliban fighters.

Supplies destroyed

On Sunday, a guard was killed in a separate terminal near Peshawar and about 100 lorries and shipping containers were set on fire, police said.

Kifayatullah Khan, the terminal’s manager, said 62 of the destroyed containers carried Humvees and other military vehicles for Western forces in Afghanistan.

He said his terminal only handled lorries carrying military supplies for Afghanistan.

The Taliban has carried out a series of such attacks in recent weeks, aimed at disrupting the supply route for US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad, said security analysts had suggested that the attacks were at least partly due to the fact that Pakistani troops were concentrating more heavily on the eastern border with India.

“One has to remember the Pakistani forces are themselves under attack [in Pakistan's northwestern region] and the military are saying they are not in a position to defend two borders.”

Continued attacks

A Taliban spokesman told Al Jazeera two weeks ago that such attacks would continue “until the [Afghan] government and the Americans are smashed”.

“We want to show them they are not all-powerful and the mujahidin of Afghanistan can carry out attacks on our enemies in any part of the country,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman, said.

The supply routes are likely to come under further pressure after Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s oldest religious party, announced it would block routes used to supply troops in Afghanistan from December 18.

International forces have reportedly discussed opening new supply routes into the country through Russia, and even Iran.

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