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Taliban Militants In Pakistan Torch Afghan Supplies

Representatives of Islamic militantsin Peshawar
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Pakistani Taliban have set fire to 20 trucks carrying supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan, the first major attack on a vital supply route through Pakistan in several months, police said.

Militants stepped up attacks on the road through northwest Pakistan into land-locked Afghanistan last year, exposing the vulnerability of Western supply links just as the United States was planning a surge of troops to tackle the Taliban.

The trucks, torched early on March 15, were parked at a depot on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar.

"They came in the dark and threw petrol bombs as a result of which 20 containers and trucks caught fire. They then opened fire while running away," senior police officer Ejaz Abid told Reuters. Two guards were wounded, he said.

Abid said the trucks contained food while a witness said some military vehicles were also being transported to the border.

The U.S. Defense Department says the U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel for its troops.

The route from Peshawar up to the border through the Khyber Pass is the most important of two routes through Pakistan.

The United States has been trying to find new supply routes for its troops after the increase in militant attacks on convoys through Pakistan.

The United States said this month it expected soon to finalize an agreement with Tajikistan that would allow the transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

Russia gave the go ahead this month for the first cargo of non-lethal supplies to cross its territory. The cargo went by rail across Russia and Kazakhstan and into Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.