Militants strike at supply trucks in Pakistan headed for Afghanistan
Suspected militants in southwestern Pakistan blew up three trucks carrying provisions for coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan, in the latest of several attacks on a key supply line for the troops, police said Monday.
One of the drivers was slightly hurt in the overnight blasts in the town of Chaman, but two fuel tankers and a rig carrying a shipping container were completely destroyed, local police said.
Allied commanders in Afghanistan say that about 40 per cent of their logistic supplies enter the landlocked country via Pakistan.
The NATO-led coalition fighting Al Qaida and Taliban militants there currently numbers about 42,000 troops from 26 nations, with an additional 13,000 Americans operating independently along the eastern border with Pakistan.
Since there is no rail link between the two neighboring nations, all cargo arriving overland from Pakistan’s main port of Karachi is trucked into Afghanistan. Militants allied with Al Qaida and the Taliban have made sporadic attempts in the past to disrupt the supply lines by attacking the convoys.
Dozens of blasts and other attacks have taken place at Chaman and at another crossing at Torkham. In October, another fuel tanker was set ablaze in Chaman, injuring its driver while he waited for paperwork to be completed for entering Afghanistan.
The latest attack on supply trucks came as the Pakistani military continued to pound an extremist stronghold in the border tribal region of South Waziristan where rebel leader Baitullah Mehsud, who is blamed for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, is believed to be hiding.
On Monday, militants fired rockets at a military post in the region straddling the Afghan border, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said.
Government troops retaliated but there were no reports of casualties.
The central government has never had much control over South Waziristan, a tribal area where several top militants are believed to hiding. Although the government has deployed nearly 100,000 troops to prevent infiltration by militants across the border into Afghanistan, its control over the mountainous area remains tenuous at best.
Fighting in South Waziristan in recent days has killed more than 100 soldiers and militants.
The violence, including suicide attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months, comes as the nuclear-armed country prepares for February 18 elections that many predict will weaken President Pervez Musharraf’s grip on power.
On Sunday, Sunni extremists fired small arms and mortars at a Shiite procession commemorating Ashoura, a Shiite Muslim holiday that is often scarred by sectarian violence, the military said in a statement. Nine civilians and three security troops were injured in the incident in northwestern Hangu town, which ended after troops fired tear gas from a helicopter, it said.
Other than the incident in Hangu, Ashoura appeared to pass peacefully in the country of 160 million Muslims. (AP)
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