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Saturday 26 November 2011

Nato helicopters 'kill Pakistan checkpoint soldiers'

Nato helicopters 'kill Pakistan checkpoint soldiers'

Pakistani officials have accused Nato helicopters of firing on a military checkpoint near Pakistan's Afghan border, killing 26 soldiers.
The "unprovoked and indiscriminate" attack took place in Mohmand tribal region, the Pakistani military said.
In response, Pakistan has closed the border crossing for supplies bound for Nato forces in Afghanistan.
The Nato-led force in Afghanistan says it is investigating and has offered condolences to any affected families.
The alleged attack took place at the Salala checkpoint, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from the Afghan border, Reuters reports, at around 02:00 local time (21:00 GMT).
Two officers were among the dead, officials said, and seven soldiers were reported wounded.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani "has strongly condemned the Nato/Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) attack on the Pakistani post," the foreign ministry announced according to AFP news agency.
"On his directions, the matter in being taken up by the foreign ministry, in the strongest terms, with Nato and the US," it added.
The BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says Pakistani officials are furious, arguing there was no militant activity in the area at the time.
The incident risks dealing a fresh blow to US-Pakistan relations, which had only just begun to recover following a unilateral US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May.
Heartfelt condolences'
A senior Pakistani military officer told Reuters news agency that efforts were under way to transport the bodies of the dead soldiers to Mohmand's main town of Ghalanai.
"The latest attack by Nato forces on our post will have serious repercussions as they without any reasons attacked on our post and killed soldiers asleep," he said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Masood Kausar, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, reportedly condemned the attack as "unacceptable and intolerable".
In a statement, Isaf commander Gen John R Allen said the incident "has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts.
"My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan Security Forces who may have been killed or injured."
In apparent response to the attack, lorries and fuel tankers were being stopped at Jamrud town in the Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar, officials and local media said - part of a key supply route which delivers 80% of Nato's equipment to Afghanistan.
"We have halted the supplies and some 40 tankers and trucks have been returned from the check post in Jamrud," Mutahir Zeb, a senior government official, told Reuters.
Pakistani troops are involved in fighting the Taliban in the crucial border region area. Hundreds of militants have been resisting attempts by the security forces to clear them from southern and south-eastern parts of the district.
Anti-militant operation The checkpoint at the centre of this latest incident was set up to prevent insurgents crossing over the border into Afghanistan, our correspondent says.
He says the movement of insurgents from the area into Afghanistan has been a concern for the Nato-led Isaf and the US.
The US has been targeting militants in Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghan border for several months, often using unmanned drone aircraft.
Last year, US helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers near the border, also prompting Pakistan to temporarily close the border to Nato supplies.
In October, Pakistan's army chief Ashfaq Kayani warned the US against taking unilateral action in nearby North Waziristan.
He said that the US should focus on stabilising Afghanistan instead of pushing Pakistan to attack militant groups in the crucial border region.
Washington has for many years urged Islamabad to deal with militants in the area.

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