Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pakistan summons US ambassador to order halt to cross-border raids

US Air Force unmanned predator aerial vehicle with a hellfire missile attached

A US air force unmanned predator vehicle, the type of which is believed to be used to launch cross-border raids

Pakistan’s government summoned the US ambassador yesterday to demand an immediate halt to missile strikes on its territory in the latest sign of escalating tension between the supposed allies in the War on Terror.The Foreign Ministry said that it had called in Anne Patterson, the US envoy, following a sudden increase in attacks by unmanned American drones on suspected militant hideouts near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

“A strong protest was lodged on the continued missile attacks by US drones inside Pakistani territory,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It was underscored to the ambassador that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the missile attacks which resulted in the loss of precious lives and property.

“It was emphasised that such attacks were a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and should be stopped immediately.”

Pakistan is a key ally in the US-led War on Terror and has received more than $10 billion in US aid since 2001 in return for helping to fight Taleban and al-Qaeda militants sheltering in its northern tribal areas.

However, US military commanders complain that Pakistani forces have not done enough to combat the militants in the lawless and mountainous region, where they believe Osama bin Laden is also hiding.

So US forces have stepped up their own attacks on the Pakistani side of the border in the last few months, launching at least 15 missile strikes and one cross-border commando raid since August.

Their most recent missile attack, on Monday, killed about 20 people at the home of a Taliban commander in the region of South Waziristan.

American officials never officially confirm or deny attacking Pakistani soil, but say in private that they have been given clearance to do so by Pakistan’s powerful military.

Pakistani officials admit in private that they have allowed some missile attacks, but accuse the Americans of failing to given them prior notice, as required, and of causing unnecessary civilian casulaties.

Pakistan’s new President, Asif Ali Zardari, is now under pressure to respond, especially since lawmakers passed a resolution on Monday condemning the attacks and calling on the government to do more to stop them.

The Foreign Ministry said it gave a copy of the resolution to the US Ambassador. She was also summoned after the US commando raid on Pakistani territory on September 3.

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