Friday, June 14, 2024
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25 Pak soldiers killed in NATO attack

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Islamabad: In a major border flare-up, 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed when NATO helicopters from Afghanistan fired on a check post in the country’s northwest, prompting Islamabad to cut off all supplies for US and allied forces in Afghanistan.

Two officers – a major and a captain – were among those killed when the helicopters targeted the check post at Baizai area of Mohmand tribal region last night, state-run PTV reported. Fifteen more personnel were wounded and the death toll could rise as some of the injured were in a serious condition, the TV channel reported.

In retaliation, Pakistani authorities stopped container trucks carrying supplies for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, it said. A brief statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations said International Security Assistance Force and NATO helicopters “carried out unprovoked and indiscriminate firing” on a Pakistani check post in Mohmand Agency.

The fresh border incident comes in the wake of already strained Pak-US ties that deteriorated over unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and over accusation that Pakistan intelligence was involved in a September siege of the US embassy in Kabul.

US considers the tribal belt a hotbed of al-Qaeda and other militants who plot attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. After the attack, Pakistani security forces blocked all entry points to Mohmand Agency and began checking all vehicles entering the area, TV news channels reported.

Several crossings on the Afghanistan frontier, including Landikotal and Takhtbai, were closed and over 100 NATO supply vehicles sent turned back to Peshawar, reports said. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Masood Kausar condemned the attack and described it as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. He too said the death toll could rise.

A spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF in Kabul said the coalition was aware of “an incident” near the border and was gathering information on it.

The incident occurred just a day after Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, met in Islamabad and discussed the need for tighter measures to block the movement of militants across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Kayani and Allen “discussed measures concerning coordination, communication and procedures between Pakistan Army, ISAF and Afghan Army aimed at enhancing border control on both sides”, an army statement said.

In May, two Pakistani soldiers were injured in an exchange of fire with two NATO helicopters from Afghanistan that intruded into the volatile North Waziristan tribal region. Pakistan had retaliated against yet another incursion by NATO helicopters in September last year, which killed two Pakistani soldiers, by shutting down the main supply route for NATO forces.

The route was reopened after the US tendered an official apology for the incursion. (PTI)

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