AS-Pakistan 3rdLd-Writethru 11-11

Hijackers take truck convoy

bound for U.S.-led forces

Dozens of masked insurgents blocked a mountain pass and hijacked at gunpoint a convoy of trucks carrying military vehicles and other supplies bound for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, an official said Tuesday.

Attacks are common against supply trucks that use the Khyber Pass in Pakistan’s northwest to ferry supplies to U.S. and NATO troops across the border, but Monday’s raid was particularly brazen.

Some 60 masked gunmen blocked the route at several points and assaulted the convoy, said Fazal Mahmood, an administration official for the Khyber tribal region.


Pakistani security forces traded fire with the gunmen but were forced to retreat. The militants took the trucks along with the drivers.

Mahmood blamed Pakistani militants from the Taliban movement for the attack.

"We are using all resources to trace and recover the hijacked trucks, some of which were carrying vehicles for the allied forces in Afghanistan," Mahmood said.

Helicopter gunships were dispatched to assist in the search in the rugged region, where Pakistan’s central government has little control and militants have found hideouts.

The U.S. has praised Pakistani efforts to crack down on the militants in its semiautonomous tribal belt, and Khyber is considered particularly important because of the supply route to landlocked Afghanistan.

The U.S. also has carried out missile strikes in Pakistan’s northwest.

On Monday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he expects U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to re-evaluate the need for such strikes, which generally target suspected al-Qaida and Taliban hideouts on Pakistan’s side of the Afghan border.

Zardari was headed today to the United States for a U.N. conference on interfaith harmony. He was expected to meet U.S. officials and raise the issue of the missiles.


Zardari said in an Associated Press interview that the attacks, which have surged since August, hamper the fight against the militants — a campaign he said was succeeding nonetheless.

Pakistan insists it is taking on the militants, pointing to a military offensive in the Bajur tribal region that began in August and has killed 1,500 suspected insurgents.

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