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Eleven Pakistani soldiers die in US-led missile strike

Latest update : 2008-06-11

A border missile fired from Afghanistan has killed at least 11 Pakistani soldiers and wounded nine in a border post, following fighting with Afghan forces. Pakistan has accused the US of firing the missile in an "unprovoked and cowardly" air strike.

ISLAMABAD, June 11 (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Wednesday
an "unprovoked and cowardly" air strike by U.S. forces had
killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on its border with Afghanistan and
undermined the basis of security cooperation.
 

The soldiers were killed at a border post in the Mohmand
region, opposite Afghanistan's Kunar province, late on Tuesday
as U.S. coalition forces in Afghanistan battled militants
attacking from Pakistan, a Pakistani security official said.
 

The incident came as frustration is rising in Kabul and
among Western forces in Afghanistan over Pakistani efforts to
negotiate pacts to end militant violence on its side of the
border. NATO says such deals lead to more violence in
Afghanistan.
 

In its strongest criticism of the U.S. military since
joining the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, the Pakistani
military condemned the killing of the 11 paramilitary soldiers,
including an officer. If confirmed, it would be the most
Pakistani soldiers ever killed in an attack by U.S. forces.
 

The attack "hit at the very basis of cooperation and
sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the
coalition in the war against terror", the military said.
 

"Such acts of aggression do not serve the common cause of
fighting terrorism," it said in a statement.
 

Earlier, a Pakistani security official said the soldiers
were killed after militants had attacked into Afghanistan.
 

"The militants launched a cross-border attack into
Afghanistan ... our soldiers were killed in a counter-offensive
by forces in Afghanistan," said the official, who declined to
be identified.
 

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan referred queries
to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, which had no comment.
 

SUSPICION
 

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said they attacked
U.S. and Afghan forces as they were setting up a position on
the Pakistan side of the border, and eight Taliban were killed
and nine wounded in subsequent U.S. bombing.
 

The militant spokesman, Maulvi Omar, said by telephone he
had heard that U.S. aircraft also bombed a nearby Pakistani
post, while the Taliban had captured seven Afghan troops and
shot down a helicopter.
 

Many al Qaeda and Taliban militants took refuge on the
Pakistani side of the border after U.S.-led forces ousted the
Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
 

Mohmand has not been a hotbed of support for al Qaeda and
the Taliban but militants, who have been extending their
influence in northwest Pakistan, are known to operate there.
 

A new Pakistani government has been negotiating with elders
of ethnic Pashtun tribes to get them to press the militants to
give up a campaign of violence in Pakistan in which hundreds of
people have been killed over the past year.
 

The government, which came to power after supporters of
staunch U.S. ally President Pervez Musharraf were defeated in a
February election, is led by the party of former Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto, killed in a suicide attack in December.
 

Afghanistan and its Western allies say peace pacts in
Pakistan's border regions enable militants to regroup and step
up cross-border attacks from Pakistani sanctuaries.
 

Pakistan supported the Taliban until the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks on the United States, when it threw its support behind
the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.
 

Despite that, Pakistan has been unable to shake off
suspicion elements within its security forces help the Taliban,
or at least turn a blind eye as the militants organise their
insurgency from Pakistan.
 

Pakistan denies the accusations, saying it has lost about
1,000 soldiers battling militants in border mountains that have
never come under the control of any government.
 

Date created : 2008-06-11

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