Top elected official killed in airstrike
| uzairakhan | 13th June, 2008
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ISLAMABAD, June 11 The top elected official in northwest Pakistan said the country should rethink its relationship with America after a U.S. airstrike reportedly killed 11 Pakistani troops.
The U.S. and Pakistan remained at odds Thursday in their versions of Tuesday nights skirmish at the Afghan border.
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said it was still not exactly clear what happened and so far U.S. officials have not been able to corroborate that Pakistani troops died.
The U.S. would be very saddened if that were true, Hadley told reporters traveling with President George W. Bush in Europe.
Pakistan has branded the strike in its Mohmand tribal region as completely unprovoked and cowardly and lodged a strong diplomatic protest. The Pentagon maintains it was a legitimate strike against militants who had attacked U.S.-led coalition forces.
On Thursday, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan released video of a bombardment aimed at militants to support its account. The excerpts, however, do not show the Gorparai border post where Pakistan said its troops died, and one explosion occurs off-screen, without explanation.
The incident presents a stiff test for the already-strained eight-year-old anti-terror alliance, a partnership many here say has cost numerous Pakistani lives with limited recognition for their cooperation.
Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister of North West Frontier Province, said the strike was absolutely naked aggression.
After condemnation, we should do some serious rethinking of the ties that we have because on the one side in the war on terror we are expected to offer them cooperation and on the other hand our security forces are being targeted, Hoti told reporters in Peshawar.
The grainy, monochrome images released by the coalition show about a half-dozen men firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from a ridge at coalition troops off camera in the valley below. According to the voiceover, the ridge is in Afghanistans Kunar province, about 200 yards (meters) from the Pakistan border and close to the Gorparai checkpoint.
Neither the checkpoint nor any other structures are visible in the video excerpts, which were shot by a surveillance drone circling above the mountainous battle zone.
The voiceover says the coalition forces were on a reconnaissance mission and returned fire.
The video shows anti-Afghan militants moving to a position identified as inside Pakistan and the impact of a bomb that the voiceover says killed two of them. The survivors fled into a ravine, where three more bombs fell. The voiceover said all the militants were killed and U.S. officials said 13 bombs were dropped in all.
According to a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the reports are not public, a B-1 bomber dropped nine bombs, including three 2,000-pound precision-guided smart bombs. At least one of the three larger bombs was launched early on and is shown in the initial part of the video, but the bulk of the B-1 bombings are not shown.
F-15E fighter jets dropped the four bombs fired after the militants had moved further inside Pakistan, killing a number of the militants, the official said.
The video does not show the nine 105 mm cannon rounds that were fired from a nearby coalition base before the B-1 and the fighter jets arrived.
Pakistans army says the fighting broke out after Afghan government soldiers, who had occupied a mountaintop position in a disputed border zone on Monday, acceded to a Pakistan request to withdraw.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the Afghan forces were on their way back when they were attacked by insurgents and that the airstrike was ordered in response.
Abbas said Thursday that the army was analyzing the coalition video and statements by U.S. officials and had yet to formulate its response.
Some Pakistanis on Thursday directed their ire over the attack at President Pervez Musharraf, who allied the country with the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
In Mohmand, tribal elder Malik Mazal Mahmood said, Musharrafs wrong policies are to be blamed for such attacks.
Others expressed satisfaction that the new government _ led by foes of Musharraf who came to power after February elections _ had quickly protested the attack.
Musharrafs government used to hide such things in the past, but the new government at least didnt do it, and rather it took a bold step by openly oppose and criticizing America, Kawanar Sadique, a 48-year old clerk at a garment factory near Lahore.
___ Associated Press writers Khalid Tanveer and Zarar Khan in Lahore, Habibullah Khan in Khar, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Jennifer Loven with President Bush in Europe contributed to this report.