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Taliban hijacking threatens key NATO supply route

Militants in Pakistan seized 13 Afghanistan-bound trucks – one carrying two Humvees – without firing a single shot.

By Shahan MuftiCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / November 12, 2008

Rich Clabaugh/staff

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Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban militants hijacked a convoy carrying wheat and military vehicles headed for Afghanistan Monday, underscoring for NATO forces the vulnerability of their only practical supply route into landlocked Afghanistan.

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In a brazen attack in Jamrud, near the capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, 60 masked militants held up a convoy of 13 trucks, according to official reports. The trucks, 12 of which were carrying wheat and one carrying two Humvees for Western forces in Afghanistan, were hijacked without the militants having to fire a single shot.

The highway on which the incident took place connects Peshawar, the largest city in northwestern Pakistan, to Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan. Coalition forces receive their food and weapons from the nearest warm-water port in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, over 1,000 miles away, through this route.

"This is the most traditional, most used land route to connect Afghanistan and Pakistan," says Talat Masood, a security expert and retired general of the Pakistani Army. The same supply route was used to support the mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union, he says.

At least two other routes connect the two countries. One in the south connects Quetta to the Afghan city of Kandahar, but it makes little sense for supplying NATO forces in and around Kabul, the capital. This route would be an extra few hundred miles, and it passes through even less secure territory. Another route, which passes through the Pakistani town of Parachinar, is ill-suited to large trucks and convoys.

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