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Reported U.S. attack upsets Pakistan

US forces may have sent in ground troops for the first time Wednesday. Were they targeting a top Taliban or Al Qaeda figure?

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 4, 2008

New Delhi

A high-ranking Pakistani official has alleged that American ground forces crossed over from Afghanistan to carry out an attack on Pakistan soil.

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While the United States has frequently been connected with missile attacks in Pakistan – usually carried out by pilotless drone aircraft – this claim, if true, would mark "a threshold being crossed," says Ikram Sehgal, editor of Defence Journal in Karachi, Pakistan.

US forces have so far not been definitively linked to any ground operations in Pakistan, and the Pakistan government has repeatedly said it will not allow such an operation – which it calls a violation of national sovereignty – to take place.

Yet Owais Ahmed Ghani, who oversees Pakistan's restive tribal areas as governor of the North West Frontier Province, said American commandos with support from three helicopter gunships attacked a Pakistani village near the Afghan border.

"At least 20 innocent civilians of Pakistan including women and children were martyred," he said.

The attack took place near Angoor Ada, a town in the South Waziristan tribal agency, according to Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Murad Khan.

But claims of a NATO raid could not be verified. Indeed there was some confusion within Pakistan itself as to the nature of the attack. The Pakistani defense minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, referred to the attack as an airstrike. He also speculated that the raid targeted a specific Taliban or Al Qaeda figure.

A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan refused comment. Defense officials at the Pentagon and at US Central Command, Tampa, Fla., would not confirm the incident and also had no further comment Wednesday morning.