LANDI KOTAL, June 23: Armed men attacked three checkposts on the main Peshawar-Torkham highway in the Khyber Agency on Sunday night and kidnapped 17 personnel of the Khasadar Force.

Officials confirmed the kidnapping and said the Khasadars deployed at the checkposts had been caught unawares by the blistering attacks at midnight.

Militants blew up the main gate of the newly-built Hawaldari checkpost, near Jamrud, after the Khasadars refused to open it. At least four Khasadar personnel were injured in the explosion.

The officials said the militants had attacked Prang Sum, Shahgai and Hawaldari checkposts on the highway and kidnapped 17 Khasadars.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but a local official accused the men of Hazrat Nabi alias Tamanche Mula, a firebrand cleric in Landi Kotal, of attacking and kidnapping the Khasadars.

The 35km-long Peshawar-Torkham highway, the main supply route for international forces in Afghanistan, has become insecure after the kidnapping of Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, his driver and guard on Feb 11.

Several militant groups have intensified their patrolling of the route and last week they threatened to disrupt oil and aid supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Forty-two tankers carrying fuel for US and Nato forces were blown up near Torkham on March 23, two World Food Programme officials were kidnapped on April 21 and an army vehicle was targeted with a remote-controlled bomb on May 20.