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Pakistan briefly halts US-NATO supplies

Pakistan reopened a major land supply route to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan that was briefly closed on Monday.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2009 05:40 IST

Pakistan reopened a major land supply route to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan that was briefly closed Monday after suspected insurgents killed a soldier and wounded 14, adding urgency to efforts to secure alternative supply lines as more US troops head to the region.

The famed Khyber Pass, where growing militant activity has prompted several temporary closures in recent months, was reopened in the early afternoon, said Fazal Mahmood, a senior government official in Khyber tribal region.

Afghan-based U.S. and NATO forces get up to 75 percent of their supplies via routes that traverse Pakistan. The trucks that carry the fuel, food and other goods face constant threats of violence, while militants have also attacked terminals in the nearby city of Peshawar.

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters hold tremendous sway in Pakistan's tribal areas. Pakistan has dispatched paramilitary escorts for supply convoys and launched a crackdown on militants in Khyber, but militant activity has continued.

In the latest attack, suspected militants fired eight rockets at a Pakistani military camp in the Landikotal area early Monday, killing one soldier and wounding 14, Mahmood said. A daylong curfew was imposed while security forces hunted down militants in neighboring Khugi Khel area. Ten were eventually arrested, Mohmood said, following which the curfew was lifted, according to another local government official, Zaheerullah Khan. The vulnerability of the supply line is especially pressing because the U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan is expected to as much as double this year to 60,000.

US and NATO officials insist the militant activity so far has had a minimal impact on their operations. Still, NATO acknowledges other routes, possibly through Central Asia, are under active consideration.