Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban pose in front of a captured US Humvee. Baitullah’s Taliban flag is draped over the hood. Photo from AFP.
A convoy carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan was hijacked by the Taliban in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt. Thirteen containers of NATO supplies and at least one US Army Humvee were taken by the Taliban as the convoy traveled through the Khyber tribal agency en route to Afghanistan.
A large force of fighters loyal to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was reported to have been behind the attack.
“About 60 masked gunmen popped up on the road and took away the trucks with their drivers. Not a single shot was fired anywhere,” a Pakistani government official told Reuters. “Baitullah’s men are behind this as they’re very well-equipped and trained,” he said.
Baitullah’s fighters proudly paraded a captured US Humvee through Khyber immediately after the convoy was hijacked. “His men were taking a joy ride, [Baitullah’s] flag waving from the side of the Humvee, a masked, armed man sitting on top waving at a camera,” ABC News reported.
Pakistani truckers say the government is powerless to stop the attacks. “The government is a silent spectator,” the owner of a trucking company that transports supplies through Khyber told Reuters. “[The Taliban] attack our trucks, loot them and kill our drivers in broad daylight, even near security checkposts, but [the military] can’t do anything.”
Today’s hijacking occurred one day after the US military killed eight Taliban fighters during hot pursuit from Afghanistan into Khyber. A Khyber-based extremist group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said its forces battled the Afghan military before retreating into Pakistan.
The Taliban routinely hijack or attack trucks as they pass through Khyber. Scores of NATO supply trucks have been destroyed or damaged in Taliban attacks along the road through Khyber over the past year. The largest attack occurred in March, when more than 30 oil tankers were bombed near the Torkham border crossing.
An estimated 70 percent of NATO supplies move through Khyber to resupply troops fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The bulk of NATO’s supplies arrive in the port city of Karachi, move north to Peshawar, and head west to the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan and the final destination in Kabul. The rest of the supplies pass through the Chaman border crossing point in Baluchistan or arrive via air.
The Pakistani government closed the Torkham border crossing to NATO traffic on Sept. 5 in protest of a US air assault that targeted Taliban forces in South Waziristan. The crossing was reopened the next day.
The Pakistani military launched an operation in Khyber in June, claiming they intended to clear the agency of extremists from the Taliban-like Lashkar-i-Islam and the allied Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. These groups were threatening to overrun the provincial capital of Peshawar.
But no senior or mid-level leader of the extremist groups were killed or captured during the operation. The government and military were clear from the beginning of the operation that it would be limited in scope and a “show of force.”
The government ended the operation just ten days after it began. The Lashkar-i-Islam quickly moved back into its tribal areas in Khyber and continued to impose its rule.
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