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04 Feb 2009 15:10
Pakistani engineers on Wednesday opened an alternative supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan after militants blew up a key bridge and torched trucks, a government official said.
The destruction of the bridge had stranded hundreds of vehicles on the route between Peshawar and the Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan, a crucial supply line for Nato and United States-led forces battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“The road has been opened for all types of traffic, light and heavy, including Nato vehicles,” Tariq Hayat, the head of administration in the Khyber tribal region, told reporters in the border town of Jamrud.
Traffic was suspended on Tuesday when Taliban militants blew up a bridge built during the British Raj.
Pakistan army engineers built an alternative route, diverting traffic around the blast damage by bridging a seasonal drain in the area, Hayat said, adding work was ongoing to repair the bridge.
“It may take a couple of days to restore traffic on the old bridge,” he said.
Hundreds of vehicles were back on the move on Wednesday after the reopening of the route, one witness said.
“I saw about 200 trucks and other vehicles crossing the road via the alternative road near the damaged bridge,” said local resident Ejaz Shinwari.
Land routes are frequently closed because of unrest and the US military has sought to find alternative ways into Afghanistan to safeguard supply lines.
The main land route into Afghanistan, where international forces are battling a Taliban insurgency, passes through Pakistan’s lawless Khyber.
Militants in the rugged tribal area have staged spectacular attacks in recent months on Nato supply depots outside Peshawar, torching hundreds of vehicles and containers destined for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Taliban rebels overnight torched another 10 trucks contracted by Nato to supply its forces in Afghanistan.
“Militants sprinkled oil and then fired rockets at a terminal in the border town of Landi Kotal” late on Tuesday, said local government official Rahat Gul.
The attack triggered a blaze that gutted eight containers mounted on parked lorries and badly damaged two others, he said.
The terminal is near the blown-up bridge.
It was not clear how many of the damaged trucks and containers were loaded at the time of the attack, a security official said.
Before the attack, militants fired 15 rockets towards a camp of paramilitary soldiers near the terminal, government and security officials said.
Some landed in the camp, lightly wounding one soldier while one rocket slammed into the wall of a nearby house damaging a parked car, one security official at the camp told AFP.
The troops returned fire and shots were traded for about an hour, another security official said. The militants fled into the mountains, he added.
Taliban releases Pakistani officials
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters on Wednesday released 30 kidnapped Pakistani police and paramilitary personnel on condition that they resign from their jobs, security officials told AFP.
“They have given assurances to the Taliban that they would quit their jobs and will take no part in any activity against the Taliban,” said a senior security official on condition of anonymity.
A Taliban spokesperson confirmed that the kidnapped officials had been released under certain conditions, on which he did not elaborate.
“We have released the kidnapped police officials conditionally,” Muslim Khan told AFP from the northwest Swat valley by telephone.—AFP
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