US faces Pak fury after Nato kills 28 troops

Pakistan retaliated by shutting down vital Nato supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in almost half of the alliance’s non-lethal materiel. It also ordered the US to vacate within 15 days the controversial Shamsi airbase in southwest Pakistan that is reportedly used as a hub for covert drone strikes.

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 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 US 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 US special forces in a raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May, which Pakistan called a flagrant violation of sovereignty.

The powerful Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Ka­yani, said in a statement issued by the Pakistani military th­at “all necessary steps be und­ertaken for an effective res­ponse to this irresponsible act”.

The commander of Nato-led forces in Afghanistan, General John R Allen, said he had offered his condolences to the family of any Pakistani soldiers who “may have been killed or injured” during an “incident” on the border.

A spokesman for the force declined further comment on the nature of the “incident” and said an investigation was proceeding. It was not yet clear, he said, whether there had been deaths or injuries.

The US embassy in Islamabad also offered condolences. “I regret the loss of life of any Pakistani servicemen, and pledge that the United States will work closely with Pakistan to investigate this incident,” ambassador Cameron Munter said in a statement.

Military officials said that up to 28 troops had been killed and 11 wounded in the attack on the outposts, about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the Afghan border. The Pakistani military said 24 troops were killed and 13 wounded. It remains unclear what exactly happened, but the attack took place around 2 a.m. (2100 GMT) in the Baizai area of Mohmand, where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban militants. About 40 Pakistani army troops were stationed at the outposts, military sources said. Two officers were reported among the dead.

A similar incident on Sept 30, 2009, which killed two Pakistani troops, led to the closure of one of Nato’s supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days. Nato apologised for the incident, which it said happened when gunships mistook warning shots.

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