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US starts vacating Pakistan airbase

world Updated: Dec 05, 2011 02:22 IST

PTI
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The US on Sunday started pulling out its nationals from Shamsi airbase, reportedly used by CIA-operated drones, on the orders of Pakistan government after a deadly NATO cross-border airstrike killed 24 of its soldiers.

An American aircraft arrived in Pakistan to fly out US nationals. After the aircraft landed, the US nationals boarded it amidst strict security, TV news channels reported.

Officials from the Federal Investigation Agency were present at the airbase, the reports said. Residents living around Shamsi airbase were told not to leave their homes while the American nationals were being taken to the aircraft. There was no official word on the development from Pakistani or American officials.

Pakistan asked the US to vacate the remote airbase in Balochistan within 15 days and blocked routes used to transport supplies to US and allied forces in Afghanistan after a cross-border NATO air strike on two military posts killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26.

Reports have said the Shamsi airbase, located about 300 km from Balochistan capital Quetta, has been used by US drone used to target militants in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt.

Pakistan reportedly leased the base to the United Arab Emirates in 1992, and the US was given access to the facility after the 9/11 terror attacks.

This is the third time Pakistan has asked the US to vacate the airbase. Similar demands were made after CIA contractor Raymond Davis gunned down two men in Lahore in January and after the US military raid that killed bin Laden in May.

The Express Tribune quoted a US government source as saying that the Americans had spent months preparing for a possible eviction from Shamsi by building up other drone launching and staging capabilities.