Pakistan protests killing of 20 people in US strike

September 3rd, 2008 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 3 (DPA) Pakistan Wednesday lodged a formal protest with the US government over the killing of at least 20 people, including women and children, in a cross-border raid by American troops in Pakistan’s tribal region.Mohammed Sadiq, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry, told DPA that US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, had been summoned to receive a formal protest over “the gross violation of Pakistan’s territory and immense loss of civilian life”.

He added: “We strongly condemned the helicopter-borne ground attack, supported by air assaults from Afghanistan, on a village near Angoor Adda in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border.”

Earlier Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of the North West Frontier Province, said in a press statement that 20 civilians “including women and children were martyred” in what he called an “outrageous” attack in the South Waziristan tribal district.

“This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan expect that the armed forces would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply to all such attacks,” he said.

“The government will try its best to protect its citizens from such cowardly attacks in the days to come,” Ghani said.

Local residents said the pre-dawn raid targeted the house of a tribesman, Payo Jan Wazir, in Birmal village. Some said the villagers were preparing to go on a Ramadan fast when the attack came at around 3 a.m. (2100 GMT).

“Ten people, including three women and two children, died during the action at Wazir’s house,” said one local resident.

The gunfire and successive blasts made the people in the surrounding houses flee their homes in panic. The foreign troops opened fire and killed at least five more civilians, the sources said. Several villagers were wounded.

A local security official said the US forces might have raided the compound to seize or kill some high-value target, as the area is a known sanctuary for Al Qaeda militants.

The reported action in South Waziristan was the first involving US ground troops there, although US forces have carried out several missile attacks and airstrikes in recent months on suspected militant hideouts.

Pakistan’s top security official, Rehman Malik, told reporters on Monday that government troops had recently narrowly missed an opportunity to capture Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.

But the foreign ministry spokesman warned that American and NATO raids were “counter-productive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism”.

“On the contrary, they undermine the very basis of cooperation and may fuel the fire of hatred and violence that we are trying to extinguish,” Sadiq said.

Separately, Pakistan’s Army also lodged a strong protest with International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan saying that it reserved “the right of self-defence and retaliation” to protect its citizens and soldiers against aggression.

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