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Pak temporarily shuts NATO supply route

world Updated: Jan 14, 2009 19:18 IST
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Pakistan cut off supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass on Wednesday as security forces expanded a major operation against militants in the area, officials said.

The move to shut down the route through Pakistan's northwest tribal areas -- the main road used by NATO supply convoys -- came after the southwest road to Afghanistan reopened following a five-day blockade by local tribesmen.

Security forces ordered today's closure of the Khyber Pass as they expanded a massive offensive in the rugged Khyber area, first launched about two weeks ago, to flush out militants entrenched in hideouts along the road.

The operation was mounted after a series of spectacular attacks on depots in and around the northwestern city of Peshawar, in which hundreds of vehicles used to ferry supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan were torched.

"The NATO supply route has been temporarily suspended," Khyber administration official Rahat Gul told AFP.

A security official told AFP that the military offensive had been expanded from the town of Jamrud, the gateway to the Khyber Pass, into the neighbouring town of Landi Kotal, where a curfew has been imposed.

Residents of Landi Kotal told AFP that they had been told not to leave their homes, via announcements made using the loudspeakers at local mosques.

"This is the mopping-up stage of the operation," the official said, adding that the border crossing at Torkham had been sealed off, prompting the closure of the Peshawar-Torkham highway.