ISLAMABAD (AP) - Dozens of militants armed with guns and
gasoline bombs attacked a truck terminal in northwestern Pakistan
on Thursday and burned five tanker trucks carrying fuel to NATO
troops in Afghanistan, police said.
NATO and U.S. commanders are seeking alternative transport
routes into landlocked Afghanistan amid mounting assaults on the
critical main supply line through Pakistan.
Militants attacked the truck depot near the city of Peshawar
before dawn, hurling gasoline bombs which set fire to the five
tankers, said Abdul Khan, a local police official.
Security guards fled and the assailants made their escape before
police arrived, Khan said. Several truckers drove their vehicles
out of the terminal to save them from the flames, which were later
doused by firefighters, he said.
NATO and the U.S. military insist that their losses on the
transport route remain minimal and have had no impact on their
expanding operations in Afghanistan. Most of the fuel for U.S.
troops in Afghanistan comes from Central Asia.
However, a series of attacks on terminals as well as on convoys
heading through the nearby Khyber Pass into Afghanistan have
contributed to concern that militants could paralyze or even seize
control of northwestern Pakistan.
The government faces stiff criticism at home and abroad for
striking a peace deal that includes the introduction of Islamic law
in the nearby Swat Valley, from where Taliban militants appear to
be expanding their authority.
Officials and witnesses said Wednesday that Taliban gunmen were
mounting patrols, broadcasting sermons and spreading fear in the
Buner district, just south of Swat and only 60 miles (100
kilometers) from Islamabad.
President Asif Ali Zardari approved the peace pact last week in
hopes of calming Swat, where some two years of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up
to a third of the valley's 1.5 million residents.
Critics, including in Washington, have warned that Swat could
become a base for allies of al-Qaida - and might be the first
domino in nuclear-armed Pakistan to fall to the Taliban.
Supporters of the deal say it will allow the government to marginalize hard-liners and gradually reassert control by taking
away the militants' rallying cry for Islamic law.