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US airstrike injures 11 Pak soldiers

Tensions between Pakistan and coalition forces rise after an attack by US jets within Pakistani territory left 11 Pakistan Army soldiers injured, reports Kamal Siddiqi.
By Kamal Siddiqi | Hindustan Times, Karachi
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2008 11:23 PM IST

Tensions between Pakistan and coalition forces rose after an attack by US jets within Pakistani territory left 11 Pakistan Army soldiers injured, some of them seriously late on Thursday night.

A day earlier, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the UN Security Council that Pakistan would not allow foreign troops to operate inside Pakistani territory. The air strike took place in Angoor Adda area, near Wana.

The strikes come at a time the Pakistan government is holding negotiations with militant groups in the tribal areas and in the North West Frontier Province in a bid to bring peace to the area.

However, the US government warned this week that there are more foreign fighters, including al Qaeda militants, operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas than in the past. Top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen said militants are flowing into Afghanistan “more freely this year” compared to last year because Pakistan’s government and military are not putting enough pressure on insurgents.

Observers say this is criticism of the government of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, which has said it will engage in dialogue with the militants. This policy has been criticised by the US.

Mullen said a recent pact Pakistan made to go after militants who don’t agree to lay down their weapons could be useful if it is enforced. Previous peace deals in Pakistan’s tribal areas only gave insurgents freedom to carry out militant operations, he said.

For its part, Pakistan has called on Afghanistan to enhance operational cooperation by undertaking measures such as expansion of military deployments and check-posts on the Afghan side of the border to match Pakistan’s 100,000 military personnel and 1,200 check-posts.

Qureshi also called for real-time intelligence sharing, caution in the use of artillery and aerial attacks, supply of counter-insurgency equipment requested by Pakistan, more effective check of the 40,000 daily legal crossings and relocation of Afghan refugee camps close to the border from Pakistan to controlled sites in Afghanistan.

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