Pakistan and US offer different versions of border post attack
Pakistan's chief military spokesman said he didn't believe Pakistan fired on the Americans or that the border post attack could have been inadvertent.
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NATO officials said Afghan and US troops operating inside Afghanistan early Saturday had been fired on from the Pakistani side of the border and had requested close air support to help defend themselves. What happened next is still under investigation, officials said.
But Pakistan's chief military spokesman said he did not believe that there had been any fire directed at the Americans from Pakistan and said he did not believe the attack could have been inadvertent.
Major Gen. Athar Abbas said the military outpost on a mountain top at Salala in the Mohmand part of Pakistan near the Afghan border was well marked on maps that both Pakistan and NATO have and that the US air assault lasted for more than an hour.
"I cannot rule out the possibility that this was a deliberate attack by ISAF," Abbas said, referring to NATO's International Security Assistance Force by its acronym. "If ISAF was receiving fire, then they must tell us what their losses were."
No NATO casualties have been acknowledged in Saturday's clash. A military official in Washington identified the NATO forces involved as American.
The Saturday incident was by far the worst to date between the two supposed allies along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border and sent US-Pakistani relations to their lowest point since the May raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout, when US troops entered Pakistan without notifying Pakistani officials and killed the al Qaida leader in the Pakistani city of Abbottabod. US officials believe bin Laden had lived for years in Abbottabod, the site of the Pakistan's premier military academy.
In Pakistan, a nation already bursting with anti-Americanism, public opinion was further riled by images of the funeral of the soldiers killed, which filled television screens Sunday. The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, considered Pakistan's most powerful man, attended the funeral services at a military base in Peshawar as did the top civilian officials from the north west.
Television images showed 24 coffins laid out on a lawn, each wrapped in a Pakistan flag. Each coffin was carried away by an honor guard to be buried in the soldiers' home towns and villages.
In a statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called Saturday's events a "tragic unintended incident." But NATO provided no details on what took place, and US Army Col. Greg Julian, a NATO spokesman, said officials are still trying to determine what happened after the joint US and Afghanistan army units took fire from inside Pakistan.