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LANDI KOTAL, Feb 3: The crucial supply line for US and Nato troops in Afghanistan was disrupted after an important bridge on the Peshawar-Torkham road was blown up on Tuesday.

Officials of the Khyber political administration said the 30-metre-long steel bridge was damaged by a blast and collapsed when a trailer loaded with cement was crossing it early in the morning.

The bridge on a culvert at Ali Masjid was built in the British days and was one of the oldest bridges on the route.

The officials said they were trying to build a diversion and restore traffic by Wednesday morning.

According to an eyewitness, who identified himself as Ali Akbar, hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the bridge.

The Khyber Agency political agent and officials of the Jamrud administration visited the area and called for efforts for early resumption of traffic.

“We are making extra efforts to restore heavy traffic keeping in view the threat to fuel and other supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan” said Subedar Said Ali who is in-charge of work for building a diversion through the natural water channel under the bridge.

The diversion will serve as the alternative supply route.

The bridge was blown up at a time when the military is waging the “Here I Come” operation against militants in the area.

The operation launched on December 30 last year is aimed at flushing out militants from Khyber and securing the international supply route.

The blowing up of the bridge created immense hardship for local people who had to walk almost 10 kilometres to move from one side of the bridge to the other.

Local transporters exploited the situation and started fleecing people going from Ali Masjid to Peshawar or to Torkham border.

A large number of government officials could not reach their offices and children could not go to schools.

AFP adds: A spokesman for the Nato force in Afghanistan, Wing Commander Mark Larter, played down the temporary closure.

“Our current logistics arrangements are sufficient to meet our needs,” he said.

“We protect ourselves with a robust inventory of goods and supplies.”

Nato runs another land route in the southwest, from Quetta through Chaman and across the border at Spin Boldak, and airlifts supplies from the port city of Karachi.