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Pak didn't give permission for US strikes

President Musharraf said his country did not give permission for a botched US airstrike against Al-Qaeda suspects.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 11:43 IST

Pakistan did not give permission for a botched US airstrike against Al-Qaeda suspects that killed 18 civilians this month, nor was it asked to do so, President Pervez Musharraf saidin Davos on Friday.

But while reiterating his condemnation of the January 13 strike in a remote tribal area bordering Afghanistan as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, he said the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in the region was as well.

"We were not asked and we did not give any permission," he told a briefing for reporters on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Musharraf's comments were not an outright denial that Pakistan might have known of the strike in advance.

The Washington Post reported on Monday, citing US military and intelligence sources, that Islamabad signed off on the attack beforehand and even assisted with pre-attack intelligence.

Moreover, Musharraf underlined that US and Pakistani forces, while each operating on either side of the Pakistani-Afghan border, shared intelligence.

The strike on Damadola village was reportedly aimed at killing the Al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, during a gathering of senior figures from the terror network there.

Protests erupted across Pakistan following the attack, and Islamabad, a key US ally, lodged a formal complaint with Washington. "We did not know" whether Zawahiri was actually there, Musharraf said.

"While we condemn this attack, there are foreigners" in Pakistan, he said, using the authorities' shorthand for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants thought to have sheltered in the tribal regions.

"Any interference in force by any country is violation of sovereignty, but so is the presence of foreigners on our soil," Musharraf said.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 09:36 IST