Pakistan mounts fresh offensive against militants (Lead)

December 30th, 2008 - 6:51 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Dec 30 (DPA) Overland haulage of supplies for US and Nato troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan’s famous Khyber Pass was suspended Tuesday when security forces sealed off the region before launching an operation against militants, officials said.Government troops backed by tanks, artillery pieces and helicopter gunships entered the Jamrud area in the Khyber tribal district early Tuesday to target armed insurgents involved in a spate of kidnappings in the north-west and attacks on trucks carrying food and military supplies into land-locked Afghanistan.

“We have identified 26 militant targets and they will be neutralized,” said Tariq Hayat, the district’s top administrator who is based in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province near the Afghan border.

According to Hayat, the movement of Nato-bound trucks through the Khyber Pass will remain suspended until the objectives of the operation are achieved and the key route is free of any militant threat.

The Kukikhel tribe in Jamrud is believed to be giving shelter to insurgents.

Hayat said that, if needed, the troops would expand their operation to other areas on the periphery of Jamrud.

The soldiers were facing some resistance from the militants. A local administration official said that at least five people were injured by midday in an exchange of fire.

One security official was among the wounded.

Attacks on trucks mostly loaded with armoured vehicles, including Humvees, for the international forces have surged in recent months in retaliation of a spate of US drone attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan’s lawless tribal territory.

Authorities have barred the movement of convoys through the Khyber Pass without military escorts and the trucks are parked in privately-managed terminals on the outskirts of Peshawar during the

However, successive strikes on these bays have also become a challenge for the law enforcement agencies, and many haulage contractors have suspended their operations amid fears of violent

More than three-quarters of US and Nato-bound cargo landing in the southern port city of Karachi are transported to Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass, and its closure could hamper the US-led operations against the Taliban militants.

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