- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (AP) - Suspected Taliban militants fired a rocket that killed eight people in a northwest Pakistan town Thursday, in an attack targeting security forces near a key supply route for international forces in Afghanistan, an official said.

The militants fired three rockets near a base used by Pakistani security forces in the town of Lanvi Kotal, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of the Afghan border, said Rashid Khan, an area government administrator.

One of them hit the town’s commercial area, killing at least eight people, injuring more than 30 and setting fire to a timber yard and a string of nearby shops, Khan said. The other two struck villages outside town, and it was not immediately known if there were casualties there.

“The death toll could rise because we are still searching through the rubble in the dark,” Khan said.

The town lies in Pakistan’s tribal region on a key road where militants have carried out a wave of attacks on trucks carrying supplies to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan security forces have launched several operations to push militants back from the road and the nearby gateway city of Peshawar.

Rising Taliban attacks have raised doubts about the reliability of the critical supply routes through Pakistan, prompting the U.S. and NATO to seek alternatives. Afghan-based U.S. and NATO forces get up to 75 percent of their supplies via routes through Pakistan.

Suspected Taliban militants have repeatedly struck transport depots near Peshawar in recent months, destroying scores of military vehicles, while attacks on the road through the Khyber Pass to the Afghan border have repeatedly forced its temporary closure.

U.S. and NATO officials insist the attacks have little impact on their operations, but are looking at ways to bring more supplies into Afghanistan through Central Asia.

Recent political turmoil in Pakistan has raised concerns that the government will shift its focus away from its battle against al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Earlier Thursday, the government appealed court rulings against opposition leaders that triggered weeks of political crisis.

Last month, the Supreme Court disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his politician brother Shahbaz from holding elected office because of controversial convictions dating back to the rule of former President Pervez Musharraf.

The court ruling prompted President Asif Ali Zardari to suspend the administration in the critical province of Punjab, handing its control to the federally appointed governor. That infuriated the Sharifs, who accused Zardari of a power grab.

The Sharifs and activist lawyers called off plans to stage an indefinite protest outside the federal Parliament on Monday after the government agreed to file the court appeals and reinstate several judges ousted by Musharraf.

Attorney General Sardar Latif Khosa said the appeals were lodged with the Supreme Court on Thursday and that the government wanted them to be heard as soon as possible.

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