World

Pakistan criticizes NATO airstrikes

Pakistan is criticizing NATO for launching a pair of deadly airstrikes on its territory, saying the cross-border strikes were a violation of its sovereignty.
A Pakistani officer displays recovered equipment from NATO forces fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Monday. ((Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press))

Pakistan is criticizing NATO for launching a pair of deadly airstrikes on its territory, saying the cross-border strikes were a violation of its sovereignty.

As many as 50 militants were killed in the airstrikes, which were launched over the weekend after a group of insurgents attacked an Afghan security post in Khost province.

U.S. officials have said they have an agreement that allows aircraft to cross a few kilometres into Pakistani airspace if they are in hot pursuit of a target, but Pakistan denied Monday that such an agreement exists.

U.S. Capt. Ryan Donald, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said ISAF "maintains the right to self-defence, and that's why they crossed the Pakistan border."

Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, however, said in a statement that the mandate of foreign troops in Afghanistan ends at the Afghan border, and the strikes were a violation of its sovereignty.

Pakistani intelligence officials also said two NATO helicopters carried out a third strike inside Pakistani territory on Monday morning, killing five militants and wounding nine others.

The strike occurred in the village of Mata Sanger in the Kurram tribal area, which is directly across the border from the Afghan provinces of Paktia and Nangarhar, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Donald, the NATO spokesman, said officials were still investigating and could not confirm or deny reports of the attack in Kurram.

U.S. Maj. Michael Johnson, another ISAF spokesman, said 49 militants were killed in the strikes launched over the weekend.

Abdul Hakim Ishaqzie, the provincial police chief in Khost, cited a higher death toll of around 60 militants. He said police at checkpoints at the border came under attack, engaged the militants in a gun battle and then called for help, prompting the helicopter strikes.

ISAF said no civilians were killed in the attack, but that could not be confirmed.

Insurgents routinely launch attacks into Afghanistan from Pakistan, and parts of the border also serve as a transport corridor for fighters, weapons and money.

"It's viewed as a haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda — but Pakistan is sensitive nonetheless about combat operations spilling over into its territory," CBC's Carolyn Dunn said.

The U.S. rarely uses manned aircraft to carry out strikes in North Waziristan and instead relies on drone attacks that American officials refuse to acknowledge publicly.

With files from CBC News

now