PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – Militants destroyed trucks ferrying Humvees to Western forces in Afghanistan on Monday in an attack that killed two people and underscored the vulnerability of the crucial supply line.
The raid on a terminal in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar came as the country faces rising tensions with its eastern neighbor India in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai.
New Delhi has said the attack was carried out by Pakistani gunmen. Islamabad has said the militants had no link to the government and has promised to cooperate with the investigation, but the accusations have triggered fears of a flare-up between the nuclear-armed rivals that could severely affect the U.S.-led antiterror campaign in the region.
Peshawar, which sits along the supply route from Pakistan to Afghanistan, has seen an upsurge in violence in recent weeks, including the slaying of an American working on a U.S.-funded aid project.
The city lies close to the lawless, tribal regions along the Afghan border, where Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding out.
Several gunmen fired rockets and automatic weapons at the Faisal terminal, a depot on the edge of the city for trucks that carry vehicles and other supplies. A driver and a clerk died in the attack, which also destroyed 12 trucks, said police officer Ahsanullah Khan, giving no more details.
An AP Television News reporter saw two Humvee military vehicles on board the trucks that were gutted by flames in the attack.
Up to 75 percent of the supplies for Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan pass through Pakistan after being unloaded from ships at the Arabian sea port of Karachi.
NATO says it is investigating alternative supply routes through Central Asian nations to reach its forces, which are fighting a resurgent Taliban seven years after the fall of the Taliban.
The alliance and U.S. officials say losses along the supply route are not affecting their operations in the country in any way, however.
In early November, suspected Taliban militants hijacked several trucks carrying Humvees near the Khyber Pass and paraded them for TV cameras, in what was seen as major propaganda boost for the insurgents.
Pakistan halted traffic along the road for several days while it arranged for armed troops to guard the slow-moving convoys.
Al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the northwestern border region are blamed for rising attacks in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan.
Pakistani troops are battling the insurgents in at least two regions, including the Swat Valley, the scene of a suicide attack Monday on a security checkpoint that killed 8 people and wounded 40, authorities said.
The bomber detonated his car while queuing up at the checkpoint, an officer at the Swat media center said on customary condition of anonymity. The identities of the dead were not known.
Meanwhile, fighting between rival political and ethnic gangs continued in parts of Karachi, raising the death toll to 32 in three days of violence, said city police chief Waseem Ahmed.
Gang fighting is common in Karachi, the largest city and commercial hub of Pakistan.