Pakistan demands immediate end to US incursions (Lead)

September 16th, 2008 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Sep 16 (DPA) Pakistan Tuesday demanded an immediate end to incursions by US forces into its territory, as the country’s jets and helicopter gunships pounded insurgent positions in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, killing 10 rebels and two civilians.”The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country would be safeguarded at all costs,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in a meeting with British Secretary of State for Law and Justice Jack Straw in Islamabad.

The statement came one day after US forces allegedly tried to cross into Pakistan’s tribal district of South Waziristan but were forced to turn back to Afghanistan after the country’s security forces and armed tribesmen fired warning shots.

It was the latest of a series of military incursions by the US, which is concerned over Pakistan’s inability to control Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who attack international troops in Afghanistan from its lawless tribal region.

US attacks have strained Washington-Islamabad relations, with Pakistan briefly blocking the NATO supplies through its land to Afghanistan earlier this month.

Straw agreed with Gilani that foreign incursions into Pakistan’s territory would be “counterproductive”, but said he hoped the country would continue providing passage to NATO supplies, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

Gilani insisted Pakistani armed forces were fully capable of handling any situation within their territory, where security forces are battling against the rebels.

On Tuesday, thousands of troops backed by tanks and artillery pushed into the district of Bajaur, particularly in the Rashakai, Loi Sam and Tang Khata strongholds of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked fighters from Central Asia.

“At least 10 militants and two civilians were killed in the fresh aerial attacks on militant targets and 18 people, including five civilians, were wounded in the strikes, which are to continue through the day,” said a security official.

Fighting in the Bajaur district broke out in early August when dozens of rebels attacked a checkpoint on a strategic hilltop along a route previously used by militants to cross into Afghanistan and attack international forces.

Hundreds of people have reportedly died and tens of thousands more displaced by the clashes. Dozens of troops have also died in the conflict.

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