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Pakistani Taliban Destroy Western Forces' Supplies

Burned-out trucks at a NATO terminal outside the city of Peshawar on Demember 7.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- For a second night running, Pakistani Taliban torched dozens of containers full of supplies meant for Western forces in Afghanistan, in a brazen raid on the outskirts of Peshawar, officials and witnesses said.

Having set ablaze close to 100 trucks, some carrying military vehicles, in the early hours of December 7, the militants struck again on December 8, this time hitting a container terminal 2 kilometers away from the first attack.

"The militants came just past midnight, firing in the air, sprinkled petrol on containers and then set them on fire," said Mohammad Zaman, a security guard at the terminal on the Peshawar ring road. "They told us they would not harm us, but they asked us not to work for the Americans."

Close to 50 containers were destroyed.

Militants also fired rockets at two trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces as they drove along the ring road overnight.

The route from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass to the border town of Torkham is the most important supply line for U.S. and NATO forces fighting a Taliban insurgency in landlocked Afghanistan.

Concerns About Security

A spate of attacks has raised concerns both about the security Pakistan provides to the truck convoys and the spread of militancy to the Khyber tribal region and the gates of Peshawar, the most important city in the northwest.

A week ago, militants destroyed 22 trucks carrying food supplies.

It was unclear how many militants took part in the latest attack.

Security guards the previous night said they were overrun by around 200 militants, who shouted "Allah-o-Akbar" ("God is great") and "Down with America" as they broke into the truck terminal.

They said the militants fired rockets and hurled grenades, and one guard was killed in a shoot-out between the raiding party and police.

While most supplies for foreign forces in Afghanistan are trucked via Pakistan through Khyber, the other main land route runs from the southwestern city of Quetta through the border town of Chaman to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

The growing violence has raised concern about the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan, as its 8-month-old civilian government is also grappling with an economic crisis.

Pakistan's support is seen as vital to the West's efforts to defeat Al-Qaeda globally and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and apart from the deteriorating security situation in the northwest, the government is trying to handle tension with India.

New Delhi says the gunmen, who killed at least 171 people in a horrific attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last month, were Pakistan-based militants, and has demanded that the government act against these organizations.

The group being blamed by India is one of several jihadi organizations fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, and the Pakistani government has previously dealt softly with these groups, which are based along the eastern border.

Militant Reprisals

Even if it wanted to, which many analysts doubt as they believe Pakistani intelligence agencies provide these anti-India groups with covert support, the army would become stretched if it tried taking on militants on two fronts.

Cities in the central province of Punjab could become targets for militant reprisals if they were threatened with a serious crackdown.

In the northwest, the military has recently extended an offensive from the Bajaur tribal region to the neighboring Mohmand region.

Air power has been employed on a scale hitherto unseen in Pakistan's long-running struggle to crush militancy in the tribal areas, and more than 1,000 militants have been killed in Bajaur alone, according to the military, though casualty figures cannot be verified independently.

All seven of the semi-autonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan have been infected with militancy, as have some neighboring so-called "settled areas."

People in Jamrud, the main commercial hub in the Khyber Pass, say militants move freely in the area.

Pakistani security forces launched an operation in June to push back militants from the Khyber region, and a senior police official said on December 7 the government planned to launch another operation soon.