Islamabad: At least 28 Pakistani soldiers
were killed today when NATO helicopters and combat jets fired
on two border posts in the country`s northwest, prompting army
chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to direct his troops to prepare
for "an effective response" even as authorities cut off all
supplies for US forces in Afghanistan.
The attack, the worst single incident of its kind in one
decade, looked set to plunge US-Pak relations, already deeply
frayed, further into crisis.
A major and a captain of the Pakistan Army were among
those killed when NATO aircraft fired at the borders posts in
Baizai area of Mohmand tribal region at 2 am.
Fifteen more personnel were wounded and the death toll
could rise as some of the injured were in a serious condition,
several officials said.
A military statement said the NATO aircraft "carried out
unprovoked firing" on the border posts.
Pakistani troops "effectively responded immediately in
self-defence to NATO/ISAF`s aggression with all available
Gen Kayani strongly condemned "NATO/ISAF`s blatant and
While lauding the effective response by Pakistani
soldiers, he issued orders for taking all necessary steps for
"an effective response to this irresponsible act".
Within hours of the attack, Pakistani authorities sealed
off the country`s border stopping all container trucks and
tankers carrying supplies for US and NATO forces in
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir called in US Ambassador
Cameron Munter to lodge a "strong protest on the unprovoked
NATO/ISAF attack", the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Bashir told the US envoy that the attack had "deeply
incensed the government and the people of Pakistan".
The President, Prime Minister and the government "strongly
condemn the attacks which were totally unacceptable,
constituted a grave infringement of Pakistan`s sovereignty,
were violative of international law and a serious
transgression of the oft conveyed red lines", the statement
The incident could have "serious repercussions on
Pakistan-US/NATO/ISAF cooperation", the statement further
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described the incident
as an "attack on Pakistan`s security and sovereignty" and cut
short a visit to his hometown of Multan to rush back to
He convened a meeting of the Defence Committee of the
Cabinet to formulate Pakistan`s response to the incident.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Masood Kausar, while talking
to media in Islamabad, put the death toll at 26.
However, other officials were quoted by the media as
saying that 28 soldiers were killed.
The attack comes at a time when US-Pak relations have
plunged to a new low since early this year over the Raymond
Davis episode and the unilateral raid by US that killed al-
Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2.
US Ambassador Munter expressed regret at today`s incident
and offered assistance in probing it.
In a statement issued by the US Embassy, Munter said: "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".
A spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF in Kabul said the
coalition was aware of "an incident" near the border and was
gathering information on it.
Security forces blocked all entry points to Mohmand Agency
after the incident and began checking all vehicles.
Several crossings on the Afghanistan frontier, including
Landikotal and Takhtbai, were closed and over 150 NATO supply
vehicles were turned back to Peshawar.
The Pakistan Embassy in the US lodged a verbal protest
over the attack.
The Deputy Chief of Mission Iffat Gardezi contacted the US
State Department at midnight and described the incident as
Pakistan`s Ambassador to the European Union, Jalil Abbas
Jilani, lodged a similar protest with NATO.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif, the chief of the PML-N,
condemned the incident and described it as an "act of
terrorism" while Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan
called on the government to pull out of the US-led war on
The incident occurred just a day after Gen Kayani and the
commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen,
met in Islamabad and discussed the need for tighter measures
to block the movement of militants across the Pak-Afghan
In May, two Pakistani soldiers were injured in an exchange
of fire with two NATO helicopters from Afghanistan that
intruded into the volatile North Waziristan tribal region.
Pakistan had retaliated against yet another incursion by
NATO helicopters in September last year, which killed two
Pakistani soldiers, by shutting down the main supply route for
The route was reopened after the US tendered an official
apology for the incursion.
Prior to today`s attack, the deadliest attack on Pakistani
soldiers involving NATO occurred in June 2008, when 11
soldiers were killed in an air strike in Mohmand Agency.