US-Pakistan relationship further tested with Nato helicopter strike
By Rob Crilly
The fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid suffered a further blow yesterday when two Nato helicopters opened fire on a Pakistani checkpoint wounding two soldiers.
The Pakistani military said it had demanded a “flag meeting” with Nato commanders over the incursion in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border in an area that has been repeatedly targeted by US drones as a hub of al-Qaeda militants.
The statement said the two Nato helicopters – believed to be American – had entered Pakistan at the Admi Kot border post.
“The troops at the post fired upon the helicopters and, as a result of the exchange of fire, two of our soldiers received injuries,” it said.
An official for the Nato-led force in Afghanistan said yesterday that it was investigating the incident.
He said two helicopters supporting a forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan had returned fire after being attacked from inside Pakistan, but declined to say whether they fired from Afghan airspace or crossed the border.
Last year, Pakistan halted crucial Nato convoys travelling to Afghanistan for 10 days after a similar incursion killed two soldiers.
Talat Masood, a retired military officer and analyst, said the incursion may have been accidental but it was causing a huge amount of anxiety among a public already on edge about American raids.
“This sort of thing is very unhelpful,” he said. “It may be an isolated incident but the very fact that it has happened right now means that it is being seen as something more sinister.”