Suspected militants attacked a Pakistan transport terminal used to supply NATO and US troops in Afghanistan, killing a guard and burning more than 160 vehicles yesterday.
The attack took place in the early hours at Al-Faisal terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar city, where trucks carrying food and military supplies for Western troops are parked at night.
“A group of insurgents raided the terminal at around 3am and fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the trucks and container, setting more than 60 of them on fire,” police officer Fazal Mohammad Khan said.
Pakistani authorities have asked hauling contractors to make the journey through Khyber Pass, located 18km from Peshawar, only during daytime and under security cover.
The 35km mountain track passing through the lawless tribal region serves as a major supply route to landlocked Afghanistan.
The assault was the boldest yet on trucks carrying critical supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan, feeding concern that Taliban militants could cut or seriously disrupt the route through the famed Khyber Pass.
Up to 75 percent of the supplies for Western forces in the landlocked country pass through Pakistan after being unloaded from ships at the Arabian Sea port of Karachi.
About 30 assailants armed with guns and rockets attacked the terminal before dawn yesterday, police official Kashif Alam said.
Alam said 62 vehicles were destroyed.
But terminal manager Kifayatullah Khan said 106 vehicles were destroyed, including 62 that were carrying Humvees. The other torched trucks were carrying sealed shipping containers or other vehicles, including fire engines and dump trucks, Khan said.
He said his terminal handled only trucks carrying military supplies for Afghanistan.
A series of recent attacks on trucks between Peshawar and the Afghan border has highlighted the route’s vulnerability to the spreading power of Taliban-led militants in the border region.
Last week, suspected insurgents attacked another terminal near Peshawar and burned 12 trucks loaded with NATO supplies, including several Humvees. Two guards were shot dead.
NATO and US officials have said that losses along the supply route are not affecting their operations in Afghanistan. Still, NATO is seeking to open alternative routes through Central Asia.
Rising violence and instability in Pakistan’s northwest coincides with serious tensions with its eastern neighbor India in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
New Delhi blames last month’s attacks, which killed 171 people, on an Islamic militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, heightening tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors that could distract Pakistan from its role in helping the US fight terrorism.