Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pakistan: Tehrilk-e-Taliban attack NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan

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As US and UK troops get ready for a new offensive against the Afghan Taliban in the Helmand area of Afghanistan, suspected elements from the Tehrilk-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have attacked supplies meant for the NATO as they were being moved from Karachi after being unloaded from ships which had brought them to Karachi.

2. At least two incidents have been reported by the "Daily Times" of Lahore. In the first incident, which took place on January 29,2010, a convoy of trucks carrying supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port was attacked by unidentified elements as the convoy was leaving the city through the Northern Bypass. In another incident reported on February 10,2010, a group of 18 armed men attacked and hijacked a convoy carrying logistic supplies to the NATO forces in the same area. The same paper has reported that unidentified elements tried unsuccessfully to attack the office of the Karachi Port Trust, but were beaten back by the security guards in the building. It has not given the date of the attack.

3. These attacks have come in the wake of reports that terrorists of the TTP, who were previously active in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, have moved into Karachi and are trying to step up attacks on port establishments, logistics convoys and ships bringing supplies to Karachi.A 2000 USS Cole type attempt on a US ship visiting Karachi is a growing possibility.

4. In the meanwhile, localised elements associated with the ideology of the TTP, but not forming part of the TTP mainstream, have stepped up their attacks on the Pakistani security forces in the tribal belt. A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a khasadar (tribal police)patrol vehicle on February 10 in the Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency, killing 17 people, including 11 khasadar personnel. The incident took place on the Pak-Afghan highway.A Brigadier was killed and a Colonel and a Lieutenant were injured after suspected Taliban elements in Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley attacked a rescue team sent to the scene of a crashed Cobra helicopter on February 10. Two occupants of the helicopter, including its pilot, were killed. No explanation has been forthcoming as to why a Brigadier was sent on the rescue mission.

5.According to an account published by the "News", two gunship helicopters were sent to the Tirah Valley, a remote and forested mountainous area of the Khyber Agency, to bomb hide-outs of militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Islam led by Mangal Bagh. The militants managed to shoot down one of them. Two more helicopters were sent on a rescue mission. As the helicopters touched down, its occupants were attacked on the ground. (11-2-10)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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