Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 12, 2008

November 12, 2008

by Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent

Article from: The Australian

TALIBAN militants were driving around in captured US army Humvee armoured vehicles in Pakistan’s U.S. Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, take positions on a berm during a fire fight with Taliban positions near the town of Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan Friday May 2, 2008tribal region close to the historic Khyber Pass last night after hijacking more than a dozen supply trucks travelling along the vital land route that supplies coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The capture of the Humvees – these days the symbol of US intervention in Iraq and elsewhere – is a serious embarrassment to US commanders of the coalition forces.

Pakistani reporters in the area said the militants unloaded the Humvees from shipping containers on the backs of the trucks and drove off in them, after decorating them with flags and banners of the banned umbrella organisation Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is led by Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud is closely allied to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The reporters said the hijackings had taken place “in clear view of (Pakistani) paramilitary personnel” deployed at the nearby Jamrud Fort, who “did not take any action”.

“All this happened on the international highway (linking Pakistan with Afghanistan) and you can imagine the implications this can have for us,” an official told Pakistan newspaper Dawn.

Pakistan army helicopter gunships were later sent to the area, but by then the trucks had been released by the militants, who had decamped with the Humvees as well as bags of wheat.

The hijacking of the supply trucks – and the embarrassment of seeing the militants driving around the area in the Humvees – came amid fast-mounting concern about the security of thevital land route through Pakistan that serves the 35,000-strong coalition force fighting in Afghanistan.

The supply trucks were seized by the militants along a 35km stretch of the narrow, switchback road through the Khyber Pass, the main gateway for essential supplies shipped under cover to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

More than 350 trucks travel through the perilous pass each day, carrying supplies to Afghanistan, many of them with consignments destined for the coalition forces.

More than 24 transport trucks and oil tankers have reportedly been attacked in the area in the past month as militants have stepped up their assaults on the road convoys, causing serious concern to NATO commanders.

Last weekend, two coalition warplanes, backed by ground artillery from gun emplacements across the border in Afghanistan, crossed into Pakistani territory to attack militants seen in the Tirah valley, close to the Khyber Pass, in what appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against possible attacks on the vital road link.

Pakistani forces have also launched major offensives around the North West Frontier Province’s capital, Peshawar, in an attempt to drive back militants threatening the road.

The militants have responded by launching rocket attacks on Peshawar airport, which is regularly used by civilian aircraft.

Concern about security in the Khyber Pass has recently led US commanders to seek alternative land routes through Central Asia.

Adding to the concerns are mounting fears about the situation in Karachi, which is now a major target for infiltration by militants.

Officials said the trucks had been hijacked without a shot being fired.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: