Pakistan militants torch 100 NATO vehicles: police
AFP, December 8, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Armed militants on Monday launched a second raid in as many days on NATO depots in Pakistan, torching nearly 100 more vehicles destined for the alliance's forces in Afghanistan, police said.
The latest attack on a container terminal near the northwest city of Peshawar came a day after Taliban militants launched the biggest such raid to date, destroying nearly 200 vehicles in the area.
This time, the attackers set nearly 100 vehicles alight including jeeps and 20 supply trucks after dousing them with petrol, police said.
Firefighters called to the scene managed to save another 40.
"It was almost the same type of attack as the one conducted by 200 armed militants" the previous night, police official Anwar Zeb told AFP.
"The militants fled from the scene when police arrived," he added.
A security guard confirmed that around 200 armed men had attacked the terminal in the early hours of Monday before fleeing.
Such attacks occur frequently in Pakistan and have become bigger and more sophisticated in recent months.
But the US Monday downplayed them as having an "insignificant" impact on the overall US and NATO military effort in Afghanistan.
"The overall impact on our logistical efforts to resupply US forces, NATO forces, ISAF forces as well as Afghan forces has been small and has had an overall insignificant impact to date," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
A police investigator said Monday the militants traveled to Peshawar from the lawless tribal region of Khyber, which borders Afghanistan, and were well organised.
"They are well-armed with rocket launchers, hand grenades and other automatic weapons," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The police are ill-equipped and the militants outnumber them. In both incidents police had to step aside because the militants came in large numbers and they did not want to risk their lives," he added.
Another senior officer said guards were not trained to deal with the sophisticated raids being mounted by the insurgents.
"We have asked the federal government to increase the strength of police and provide us modern weapons to meet the challenge," said the officer, who asked not to be named.
Pakistan's tribal belt became a safe haven for hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists who fled Afghanistan after the US-led toppling of the hardline Taliban regime in Kabul in late 2001.
NATO has some 50,000 troops in Afghanistan and much of their supplies come through Pakistan.
Pakistan last month barred delivery of sealed containers and oil tankers through the Khyber Pass for a week after Taliban fighters in the rugged lawless area hijacked 15 trucks destined for Afghanistan and looted the vehicles.
But the country's army chief vowed last month to keep the supply line from Pakistan to Afghanistan open, reaffirming support for the alliance's mission there.
A spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan on Sunday said he expected Pakistan's military to increase security.
"We have multiple avenues of supply lines to ensure the troops have what they need," Greg Julian told AFP.
"We are looking at other means for providing security. Beside the two main roads from Quetta to Kandahar and from Peshawar to Jalalabad, we have alternate roads from the North."