Pakistan attacks fighters in US supply link Khyber
Authorities suspended the shipment of supplies up to the Afghan border on Tuesday.
Pakistani army helicopters attacked gunmen along the Khyber Pass on Wednesday where the vital supply link for Western forces is located in land-locked Afghanistan.
Authorities suspended the shipment of supplies up to the Afghan border on Tuesday to clear the way for the military to launch an offensive aimed at ending surging attacks to supplies of U.S. and NATO troops on the route.
"Two helicopter gunships pounded fighter hideouts while troops moved with tanks to secure the area," said Jehangir Khan Afridi, an administration official in the Khyber region.
The Khyber Pass runs between the northwestern city of Peshawar and the border town of Torkham and is a vital supply line for more than 65,000 Western troops in Afghanistan invasion.
The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel for its troops, the U.S. Defense Department says.
A second overland route is through the town of Chaman to the southwest leading to the Afghan city of Kandahar, and is likely to become more important as the United States begins moving up to 30,000 new troops into Afghanistan next year.
Fighters in Khyber have been trying to choke off supplies of foreign troops in Afghanistan for months to end U.S. occupation.
Nevertheless, the attacks have exposed the vulnerability of the route and forced the alliance to look for alternatives, including through Central Asia into northern Afghanistan.
The governor of the North West Frontier Province, Owais Ahmed Ghani, said the offensive would continue until objectives had been achieved and it could be extended to other areas. He did not elaborate.
Officials and residents said on Wednesday most fighters had apparently fled the Khyber region to neighbouring areas.
A pro-Taliban ethnic Pashtun tribal elder surrendered to authorities, promising his tribe would support security.
Reuters Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2009, 10:56