By Riaz Khan
Monday, December 8, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Dec. 7 -- Insurgents torched 160 vehicles, including dozens of Humvees destined for American and allied forces fighting in Afghanistan, in the boldest attack so far on the critical military supply line through Pakistan.
The U.S. military said Sunday's raid on two transport terminals near the beleaguered city of Peshawar would have "minimal" impact on anti-Taliban operations set to expand with the arrival of thousands more troops next year.
However, the attack feeds concern that insurgents are trying to drive up the cost of the war and choke the route through the famed Khyber Pass, which carries up to 70 percent of the supplies for Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan.
It also dents faith in Pakistani authorities, under pressure from India and the United States to act on suspicion that the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai were orchestrated by Islamist extremists based in Pakistan.
The owner of one of the terminals hit Sunday denied government assertions that security was boosted after an ambush last month in which insurgents made off with a Humvee and later paraded it in triumph before journalists.
"We don't feel safe here at all," Kifayatullah Khan told the Associated Press. He predicted that most of his night watchmen would quit their jobs out of fear. "It is almost impossible for us to continue with this business."
The attack reduced a section of the walled Portward Logistic Terminal to a smoldering junkyard.
Khan said armed men flattened the gate before dawn with a rocket-propelled grenade, fatally shot a guard and set fire to 106 vehicles, including about 70 Humvees.
Humvees are thought to cost about $100,000 each, though the price varies widely depending on armor and other equipment, meaning Sunday's losses may exceed $10 million.
An Associated Press reporter who visited the depot saw six rows of destroyed Humvees and military trucks packed close together, some on flatbed trailers, all of them gutted and twisted by the flames.
Khan said shipping documents showed the vehicles were destined for U.S. forces and the Western-trained Afghan National Army.