Islamabad: In a bid to defuse tensions,
the US today apologised to Pakistan for a recent helicopter
attack that killed Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border.
"We extend our deepest apology to Pakistan and the
families of the Frontier Scouts who were killed and injured.
Pakistan's brave security forces are our allies in a war that
threatens both Pakistan and the US," Ambassador Anne Patterson
said in a statement here.
Pakistan closed the main route for transporting
supplies to US and allied forces in Afghanistan after NATO
helicopters shelled a border outpost in Kurram tribal region
on September 30.
Pakistani military officials had said that three
soldiers were killed in the incident though Patterson's
statement put the death toll at two.
The statement "extended an apology to Pakistan on
behalf of the American people for the terrible accident on
September 30 which resulted in the deaths of two Pakistani
Frontier Scouts (personnel) and the injury of four others".
Patterson said a joint investigation of the incident
by the US, NATO and Pakistani officials had established that
"US helicopters had mistaken the Pakistani Frontier Scouts for
insurgents they had been pursuing".
The US will coordinate with the Pakistan government to
"prevent such tragic accidents from taking place in the
The death of the Pakistani soldiers had become a major
source of tension between the Pakistani and US military and
disrupted the supply of logistics and fuel to NATO forces in
Afghanistan via the Torkham border route, which was closed by
Islamabad a week ago.
NATO helicopters had carried out four air strikes on
Pakistani territory within a week.
On September 26 and 27, the helicopters shelled
Pakistani areas and officials claimed over 50 militants were
killed in the strikes.
A NATO spokesman initially justified the rare air
strikes in Pakistani territory as being based on "the right of
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had said in
parliament that Pakistan would consider "other options" if
such violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty did not end.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani also conveyed
their concern over increasing drone attacks and violation of
the country's airspace by NATO aircraft in meetings with CIA
chief Leon Panetta during his recent visit to Islamabad.
The US has significantly stepped up drone strikes in
the Waziristan tribal region since early last month.
The unmanned spy planes have struck the region over
two dozen times, killing more than 100 people.
The increase in drone strikes coincided with reports
about Western intelligence agencies uncovering a plot hatched
by foreign militants based in the tribal belt to target major
First Published: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 00:08