Pakistan opens Nato supply route
Pakistan Monday reopened during daytime hours a key northwest supply route for Western troops in Afghanistan, a local official said, as the army wrapped up an anti-militant drive in the area.
The administrator of the Khyber tribal area in northwest Pakistan, Tariq Hayat, told reporters that the curfew along the Khyber Pass had been lifted from 8:00 am until 7:00 pm (0300-1400 GMT).
"Now there is a free flow of traffic for every type of vehicle" including Nato supply trucks, Hayat told reporters.
"The active operation is over. Now we are engaged in the mopping-up phase of the operation against anti-social and anti-state elements," he said, referring to Taliban militants.
Security forces backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy artillery launched the operation last Tuesday in the rugged area near Jamrud, the gateway to the famed Khyber Pass linking Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The offensive, prompted by a series of attacks on truck depots in and around the city of Peshawar that saw hundreds of Nato vehicles torched, forced the closure of the highway from Peshawar to the Afghan border town of Torkham.
The road was partially reopened for a few hours a day from Friday to allow hundreds of Nato supply vehicles to pass.
The bulk of the supplies and equipment required by Nato and US-led forces battling the Taliban insurgency are transported to Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass.
But the road passes through the heart of Pakistan's lawless tribal zone, where extremists have sought refuge after Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime was ousted in a US-led invasion at the end of 2001.
After clamping down on the looting and torching of Nato trucks, Pakistan's military was also trying to put a stop to a spate of kidnappings for ransom in the border area.
Hayat blamed illegal Afghan refugees for most of the crimes in the area, issuing a week-long deadline for the refugees to head to camps or be detained.
"We will take stern action if they fail to abide," he said.
More than 200 people were arrested during the operation and 65 suspected militant hideouts destroyed, he said.
Security forces Sunday seized a van packed with 1,000 kilogrammes (2,200 pounds) of explosives, as well as several suicide jackets. Seven suspected Taliban militants were arrested.
Hayat said the militants were plotting suicide attacks in Peshawar that would have caused "massive death and destruction."
Another 200 kilos of explosives were seized during the Khyber operation, he said.