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IMAGES: Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Last updated on: November 27, 2011 15:08 IST

Image: Pakistani students hold a banner while protesting against NATO forces in front of a burning tyre in Lahore on Saturday.
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Enraged by the NATO strike that killed at least 24 of its troops, Pakistan on Sunday told the United States that the "senseless" attack negated progress in improving ties and forced it to revisit terms of engagement, as Washington quickly moved to salvage the already fragile relations backing a probe into the incident.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar conveyed Islamabad's stand on the latest issue to bedevil Pak-US ties during an early morning phone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Office.

"The foreign minister conveyed to the Secretary of State the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan at the senseless loss of 24 soldiers due to the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani post in Mohmand Agency," the statement said.

The incident "negates the progress made by the two countries on improving relations and forces Pakistan to revisit the terms of engagement," Khar said.

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Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Image: Paramilitary forces patrol the streets of Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan on Saturday after a NATO airstrike
Photographs: Khuram Parvez/Reuters

NATO helicopters and combat aircraft attacked two Pakistani military border posts in the restive Mohmand tribal region at 2 am on Saturday.

The Pakistan army put the death toll at 24 though officials were quoted by the media as saying that 28 soldiers, including two officers, were killed in the air strike.

Pakistan-US relations, already strained by the May 2 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, plunged to a new low after the incident.

In Washington, a joint statement issued by the US Departments of State and Defence said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta "have been closely monitoring reports of the cross-border incident in Pakistan."


Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Image: File picture of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking as her Pakistani counterapart Hina Rabbani Khar listens, in Islamabad
Photographs: Reuters

"Both (Clinton and Panetta) offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully NATO's intention to investigate (yesterday's incident) immediately," the US statement said.

Following the cross-border strike on two Pakistani border posts by NATO helicopters and combat jets, Islamabad shut down the crucial NATO supply lines and asked the US to vacate its secret Shamsi air based inside Pakistan, which is reportedly used by the CIA for drone strikes, within 15 days.

Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey and Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen John Allen also called their Pakistani counterparts following the incident.


Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Image: Cargo trucks, including those carrying supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, are seen halted along the Pakistan-Torkham border
Photographs: Shahid Shinwari/Reuters

"In their contacts, these US diplomatic and military leaders each stressed -- in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident -- the importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people," the American statement said.

All these leaders "pledged to remain in close contact with their Pakistani counterparts going forward as we work through this challenging time," it said.

Pakistan government framed its response to the NATO air strike during an emergency meeting of defence committee of the cabinet chaired by Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday night.

Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Image: A policeman stands guard near trucks, some of which were carrying supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, as they line up in the outskirts of Quetta
Photographs: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

The meeting attended by the three service chiefs, including army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, decided to "close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines" and asked the "US to vacate the Shamsi airbase within 15 days", said an official statement.

Kayani strongly condemned "NATO/ISAF's blatant and unacceptable act" and issued orders for taking all necessary steps for "an effective response to this irresponsible act".

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also lodged with US Ambassador Munter a "strong protest on the unprovoked NATO/ISAF attack."

Pak fumes over NATO airstrike; US backs probe

Image: Drivers, some of whom were carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, sleep on top of their trucks at a fuel terminal in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters

He told the US envoy that the attack had "deeply incensed the government and the people of Pakistan". The Pakistan Foreign Office statement said Khar spoke to Clinton to inform the US administration of the decisions made by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. Khar told Clinton that attacks like the one in Mohmand tribal agency were "totally unacceptable".

"They demonstrate complete disregard for international law and human life, and are in stark violation of Pakistani sovereignty," Khar was quoted as saying.

"She informed Secretary Clinton about the DCC decisions to stop NATO supply routes and that the US should vacate the Shamsi airbase within 15 days," the statement said.

Clinton condoled with Khar the loss of life in Saturday's incident. "She said that she was deeply saddened by the event. She conveyed the US government's desire to work with Pakistan to resolve this issue," the statement said.

Reacting to the incident, NATO said it was "highly likely" that its aircraft were responsible for the raid that killed 28 Pakistani soldiers.

NATO spokesman Brig Gen Carsten Jacobson told BBC the coalition forces in Afghanistan were probing the incident. In a statement, Gen Allen also said the incident "has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts".

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