Pakistan kills three in Afghan supply route operation

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The Independent Online

Pakistani troops killed three militants in an operation to secure the major supply route to US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, an official said today.

Fazal Mahmood said the road through the famed Khyber Pass remained closed, but he hoped it would reopen soon. The US. military has praised the campaign and said the temporary closure of the road was not a problem.

Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan rely on the winding, mountainous road for delivery of up to 75 per cent of their fuel, food and other goods, which arrive in Pakistan via the port city of Karachi.

Militants have staged repeated attacks on supply convoys heading along the pass across Pakistan's western border to Afghanistan, where fighting is escalating seven years after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime.

Yesterday, Pakistani security forces launched an operation using artillery and helicopter gunships in the Khyber tribal area. "Our forces have killed at least three militants, and the operation is continuing," Mahmood told The Associated Press.

American commanders insist the militant attacks on the supply line have not disrupted their mission in Afghanistan. They say they have enough supplies to last many weeks in case shipping routes are blocked.

But with the US preparing to almost double the number of its soldiers in Afghanistan next year, the Western forces already were looking for alternate supply routes.