Pakistan stops NATO supplies after raid kills up to 28
(Reuters) – NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis.
Pakistan retaliated by shutting down vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in just under a third of the alliance’s supplies.
The attack is the worst single incident of its kind since Pakistan uneasily allied itself with Washington in the days immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan, its ally in the war on militancy, have been strained following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May, which Pakistan called a flagrant violation of sovereignty.
A spokesman for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan confirmed that NATO aircraft had been called in to support troops in the area and had probably killed some Pakistani soldiers.
“Close air support was called in, in the development of the tactical situation, and it is what highly likely caused the Pakistan casualties,” said General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
He added that he could not confirm the number of casualties, but ISAF is investigating the “tragic development.”
“We are aware that Pakistani soldiers perished. We don’t know the size, the magnitude,” he said.
The Pakistani government and military brimmed with fury.
“This is an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. “We will not let any harm come to Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity.”
The Foreign Office said it would take up the matter “in the strongest terms” with NATO and the United States.