Angry Pakistan rejects NATO regret, China says it’s shocked

November 28th, 2011 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, Nov 28 (IANS) An incensed Pakistan Monday refused to accept NATO’s regret over the airstrike that killed its 25 soldiers, an incident China described as shocking as it called for respecting Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Islamabad maintained that NATO was aware that it was Pakistan’s Army checkpost that was attacked.

Pakistan promptly retaliated to the Saturday airstrike by permanently banning across its territory the passage of NATO supplies to Afghanistan, while China said it was shocked by the incident. Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, it stressed.

Afghanistan said it would probe the incident, which has further soured Pakistan’s ties with the US. The Islamabad-Washington ties had been strained over the May 2 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistani town of Abbottabad. A secret memo to Washington in which President Asif Ali Zardari feared a military coup added to the strain.

The NATO attack Saturday was fierce and those who survived said they were under the impression that it was mounted by the Taliban.

Mushtaq Ahmed, a 23-year-old soldier who sustained severe injuries, said they thought that the attackers were Taliban.

He said none of them at the checkpost expected a NATO strike.

“The unprovoked attack surprised us and at one point we thought that the NATO helicopters were being flown by Taliban,” the daily Dawn quoted him as saying.

Another soldier, Javidullah, said that NATO “used everything they had - mortars, rockets and bombs. The shelling was indiscriminate”.

The entire area was under fire, he recalled.

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday this was a “tragic, unintended incident”. He said it was a “regrettable incident”.

Pakistani Army spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas said they do not accept NATO’s regret and this action can lead to serious consequences.

NATO’s regret over the attack is not enough, Geo News quoted General Abbas as saying.

Abbas rejected NATO’s claim that Pakistan forces initiated fire and said: “NATO forces should present proof if they were claiming that firing was started from Pakistani side.”

He said: “No fire was opened from our side.”

He added NATO could not make the excuse that they were chasing terrorists across the border as the area where the attack took place had been cleared of militants.

Abbas said that NATO had been provided maps of all Pakistani checkposts as reference and they had also been informed about their positions, reported Associated Press of Pakistan.

The general said the attack took place 200-300 metres within Pakistan’s borders.

He said the investigations were still going on about the two posts - Volcano and Golden.

Giving the sequence of events, General Abbas said that when the attack was initiated, the soldiers deployed at the posts immediately informed their senior officers who took up the issue with regional headquarter at Peshawar and GHQ Rawalpindi.

He said they learnt about the death of the soldiers after mortar shelling stopped from across the border.

The attack continued up to two hours and 13 soldiers were injured.

To a query, he said only the NATO chief could answer about ceasefire as he was informed about the attack.

He said that NATO was also informed about presence of these posts and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials were informed whenever a new post was created so that they could retain map references of these posts.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected.

China was shocked by the attack and expresses deep condolences to the victims, Xinhua quoted Hong as saying.

He also called for a thorough investigation into the attack.

Afghanistan said it would investigate Saturday’s NATO airstrike on Pakistan.

“We are aware of the strike and would jointly investigate it with the NATO officials,” newspaper Daily Mandegar quoted Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Musazai as saying.

The immediate fallout of the airstrike was that Islamabad stopped passage of NATO supply through Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the supply of NATO through Pakistan has not been suspended, rather it has been stopped permanently.

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