GHULAM KHAN, Pakistan – Pakistani soldiers and tribal militiamen searched cars and questioned travelers at the border with Afghanistan on Sunday in a bid to keep Al Qaeda and Taliban renegades from escaping a new U.S.-led offensive in eastern Afghanistan.
Most of the people allowed through were women and children, loaded down with luggage, chickens and household items, as Pakistani authorities tried to prevent renegade fighters from slipping into the country's Northwest Frontier Province.
Pakistan sealed a 60-mile strip of the frontier and deployed extra army units and members of the Khasadar tribal militia to bolster patrols along the border with Afghanistan's Paktia province, site of three days of intense bombing by U.S. forces.
Afghans approaching the border Sunday reported bombardments west of the frontier town of Khost — in the Shah-e-Kot mountains. Mohammed Wali said Western ground forces on Saturday had also moved in and taken control of his hometown of Zawar, site of a former Al Qaeda base that was bombed extensively in January. There was no confirmation of his report.
Nawab Khan, 20, arrived at the Ghulam Khan crossing from the Afghan town of Khost, south of Gardez, near where the campaign has focused. Another villager from Khost, Hassan Khan urged the Americans to stop the bombardments.
The bombings, however, have been a boon to some in the region: Scrap dealer Sakhi Khan reported a surge in sales of metal casings and shards from bombs, missiles and rockets at his border-side shop in Ghulam Khan, southwest of Peshawar.
"After the U.S. bombing, our business has very much flourished," he said, quoting a handsome profit on pieces of scrap that he buys for 300 rupees (dlrs 5) for each 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of metal.
Scrap hasn't been hard to come buy in Afghanistan, which has been wracked by war for two decades. Nevertheless, after the recent spate of U.S. bombs, "it's the first time that we are getting these scraps in such a big quantity," Khan said.