Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Pakistan militants seize Humvees


The militants posed for cameras after hijacking the trucks on Monday

Militants in Pakistan have looted 12 trucks carrying supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan, officials say.

The trucks were carrying two Humvee armoured vehicles and food supplies. They were hijacked on Monday as they travelled through the Khyber Pass.

Later, the trucks were found abandoned in a valley. There is no word yet on the 26 people who were taken captive.

The road is a major supply route for US and Western forces battling against the Taleban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Hauliers say that over 350 trucks daily carry an average of 7,000 tonnes of goods over the Khyber Pass to Kabul.

'Most recent'

"The containers have been released. They were abandoned in a mountainous area. They are empty," a local official in the Khyber Agency tribal area told the BBC.

Officials say they have tightened security in the area and increased the number of check posts following the hijacking.

Baitullah Mehsud

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says there has been an increasing number of hijackings in Khyber, primarily of trucks and cargo bound for Afghanistan.

The trucks were seized on Monday at four places along a 20-mile (35km) stretch of the road, officials said.

They said about 60 masked gunmen took away the trucks with their drivers.

Pakistani officials blamed the hijacking on militants loyal to the Taleban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

'Inadequate security'

Security along the road leading to the border has deteriorated this year with soldiers recently carrying out an offensive in the Khyber region to drive militants away from the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in the north-west.


Traders in the main town before the pass, Landikotal, complained that the government was not providing adequate security on the road.

About 24 trucks and oil-tankers have been attacked in the past month, transport operators said.

Last year, Sawab Khan, a member of the truckers' association, told the BBC that goods transported include supplies for Western forces fighting the Taleban, as well as supplies for non-governmental organisations, the government and Afghan traders.

Mr Khan said that in addition to the threat caused by militants, every truck pays about 400,000 Pakistani rupees (about $5,000) annually in taxes and bribes.

Truckers who refuse to pay bribes are often made to park along the road and wait, sometimes for more than 24 hours, before they are allowed to move on, he said.

Some truckers also complain of extortion on the Afghan side of the border.

Supplies to the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar and Herat pass through Quetta and across the Chaman border in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.

The truckers operating on this route say they confront fewer problems.

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