Saturday, November 26, 2011

NATO Attack Kills 20 Pakistani Soldiers

Islamabad (CNN) -- NATO helicopters opened fire on a Pakistani checkpoint, killing 20 soldiers, two senior Pakistani military officials said Saturday.
The officials said 12 soldiers were wounded in the attack late Friday in the Mohmand Agency area, one of seven districts of the volatile region bordering Afghanistan. The death toll could rise as many of the injuries are critical, they said.
The officials did not want to be named because they are not allowed to talk to the media.
In a statement, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said he "strongly condemned the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani post."
The matter is being taken up by the Foreign Ministry "in the strongest possible terms" with NATO and the United States, he said.
NATO has said it is aware of "an incident," but has not released any details.
"We are still gathering information," said Jason Wagner, a spokesman for the NATO-led military mission.
Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil, commander of Afghanistan's eastern border police, said an operation was going on in the area bordering Mohmand Agency on Friday night.
"Last night, there was an operation there inside Afghanistan," he said. "Pakistani and Afghan Taliban have got a broad presence there as there are forests and difficult terrain. That's why there was an operation."
He said the military activity was in Afghanistan's Kunar province, but added he was unaware of NATO firing on Pakistani forces on the other side of the border. His latest information suggested 10 insurgents had been killed in the Afghanistan operation, he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has halted the flow of NATO supplies in Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan in response to the attack, said Jamil Khan, a senior government official in the area.
About 50 containers and trucks carrying supplies for NATO were stopped at the town of Jamrud in Khyber Agency on Saturday morning, Khan said.
They were ordered to turn back toward Peshawar, the provincial capital of northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said.
A second route from Pakistan into Afghanistan, the Chaman border crossing in Balochistan province, is still open to NATO supply trucks.
Roughly 40% of nonlethal NATO supplies and fuel go through Pakistan, with hundreds of supply trucks using the two routes into Afghanistan.
About 130,000 troops are deployed in Afghanistan with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, 90,000 of them American, according to NATO figures.
If confirmed as a NATO attack, Friday's incident could be the deadliest for Pakistani soldiers involving NATO since a U.S. airstrike in June 2008, which Pakistan said killed 11 of its forces who were cooperating with the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
That airstrike, also in Mohmand Agency, prompted the government in Islamabad to summon the U.S. ambassador and lodge an official protest.
NATO commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John R. Allen, met with the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday, the Pakistani military said.
"The visiting dignitary remained with him for some time and discussed measures concerning coordination, communication and procedures between Pakistan army, ISAF and Afghan army, aimed at enhancing border control on both sides," a Pakistani military statement said.
Pakistani officials who spoke with CNN expressed anger about Friday's attack.

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