Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Sunday, 7 December 2008

Militants torch Afghan supplies


Trucks and Humvees destroyed in the attack

More than 90 lorries supplying US forces in Afghanistan have been set on fire in a suspected militant attack in north-west Pakistan, police say.

Police said at least one person was killed as about 300 gunmen using rockets overpowered the guards at a terminal near the city of Peshawar.

Some of the lorries were laden with Humvee armoured vehicles.

There has been a series of attacks on convoys recently - although not on this scale, says the BBC's Martin Patience.

The road from Peshawar to Afghanistan is a major supply route for US and other forces battling against the Taleban.

A US spokesman, Lt Col Rumi Nielsen-Green, said the incident was "militarily insignificant".

"So far there hasn't been a significant loss or impact to our mission," she said.

But, with 300 lorries crossing the border each day, military officials will be deeply concerned that their supply line can be disrupted in this manner, our correspondent in the Afghan capital, Kabul, says.

US military sources say that most of the additional US troops being sent to Afghanistan early next year will be deployed around the city.

Overpowered guards

The attack occurred around 0230 on Sunday (2130 GMT, Saturday) as militants stormed the Port World Logistics terminal.


"There were dozens of them. They started firing, they used rockets, causing a lot of damage," the manager of the depot, Kifyatullah Khan, told the Associated Press news agency.

"In this incident 96 flat trucks and six containers were destroyed, including a 40-foot container. Also armoured jeeps, trucks and fire brigade vehicles."

"They were shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America," a security guard told Reuters news agency.

"They broke into the terminals after snatching guns from us," Mohammad Rafiullah said.

Another report said 106 lorries had been set on fire - 62 laden with Humvees.

A local official said it was the second attack on the terminals and security had been strengthened, but the guards were overwhelmed by the large numbers of attackers.

War closer

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.

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

Almost 75% of all supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan, the majority through Peshawar.

Last month, militants looted 12 lorries carrying Humvees and food aid as they travelled through the Khyber Pass.

The Taleban filmed themselves triumphantly driving off with their booty of Nato vehicles.

The alliance's supplies heading for the border were suspended for a week while security was stepped up.

Militants with Humvee armoured cars intended for Nato
Militants posed for photos alongside the stolen Humvee armoured cars

Lorry drivers are also under increasing threat by the militants.

Haji Haghaley showed his bullet-riddlled vehicle to the BBC's Damian Grammaticas last month, days after it had come under Taleban fire.

Haji Haghaley said he had driven as fast as he could.

Another driver told the BBC what had happened to his cousin recently.

"He was carrying US army trucks, and the Taleban stopped him," the man said. "The Taleban burnt his truck. They took my cousin. They demanded 10 lakh rupees in ransom ($11,500), but then lowered it to 35,000 rupees ($400)."

Our correspondent says Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, was also under militant threat.

The war is pushing the Taleban deeper into Pakistan, he says.

In recent weeks there have been a spate of attacks targeting foreigners there.

An American diplomat escaped an assassination attempt because her armoured car protected her, but a US aid worker was killed in a second attack.

The police have stepped up security in the city, there are new checkpoints, more armed patrols.

But Peshawar's police say they are outgunned and ill-equipped for the fight on their hands.

In the past, Western and Afghan officials have criticised the Pakistani government, saying it is not doing enough to tackle Islamic militancy in the tribal areas.

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