A Taliban rocket attack on a trucking terminal in Peshawar has destroyed more than 20 NATO trucks and set part of the terminal ablaze.
A Taliban force of more than 40 fighters entered the Pak-Afghan Container Terminal “scaled the back wall of the compound and tied up the guards,” Dawn reported. The Taliban fighters lobbed petrol bombs and launched RPGs at the trucks and containers.
The fire, described as an “inferno” by Geo News, “is getting more and more difficult to control” due to the “intensity” of the flames. It is unknown if further vehicles or shipping containers are in danger of being destroyed. Dawn reported that dozens of containers and trucks have been destroyed.
The early Sunday morning attack in Peshawar is the first major strike against NATO’s supply lines through northwestern Pakistan since the Feb. 3 attack in the Jamrud region in the Khyber tribal agency. The Taliban bombed a vital bridge spanning a dry river bed. The bridge was nearly destroyed and traffic was halted for more than a week until the route could be reopened.
The attack in Jamrud forced the government to shut down the route for the sixth time since September 2008. Some Pakistani truckers have refused to travel through Peshawar and Khyber as the security situation has deteriorated.
There have been multiple attacks on NATO truck terminals along Peshawar’s Ring Road. More than 450 NATO vehicles and containers have been destroyed in a series of attacks on shipping terminals in Peshawar as well as attacks on convoys moving through the region. During several bold attacks over the course of two days in early December 2008, an estimated force of 300 to 400 Taliban fighters destroyed more than 200 vehicles and shipping containers.
NATO’s most vital resupply route for its forces in Afghanistan stretches from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Peshawar, then through the Khyber Pass to Kabul. More than 70 percent of NATO supplies and 40 percent of its fuel moves through Peshawar.
Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud has been leading operations against NATO’s supply lines in Khyber and Peshawar. Hakeemullah is a senior lieutenant of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and the cousin of Qari Hussain, the notorious Taliban commander who trains child suicide bombers in South Waziristan.
Hakeemullah has become an influential leader in Pakistan’s Taliban movement. He also commands the Taliban in the Kurram and Arakzai tribal agencies. He declared sharia, or Islamic law, in Arakzai in January 2009. In Khyber, Hakeemullah has rivaled the Lashkar-e-Islam for control.
The government and military have launched several offensives to drive out the Taliban in Peshawar and Khyber, but Pakistanis living in the area say the efforts have been unsuccessful.
The military claimed that Peshawar has been freed from a Taliban siege, but a recent series of deadly attacks against police stations and outposts in the city and surrounding areas indicates the Taliban still have a grip on the region.
The growing Taliban insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province coupled with the assault on the supply lines has forced NATO to seek alternative supply routes into Pakistan. In Late January, NATO secured an agreement with Russia to allow supplies to pass through the Central Asian republics. NATO officials have said its members could use Iranian routes to resupply its forces, while the US is also exploring the possibility of establishing routes through Iran.
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