American military officials in Afghanistan have admitted that an American B-52 jet dropped a 500lb bomb on Pakistani border troops, who are supposed to be co-operating with the US in the war against al-Qa'ida and Taliban.
A statement by the US military at Bagram air base said the bomb was dropped after a Pakistani border scout opened fire on a US patrol which had asked him to return from the Afghan to the Pakistani side of the border. An American soldier was slightly hurt. The US military said the injured soldier was part of a unit conducting a routine mission on Sunday with Pakistani forces along the Afghan border when a disagreement appeared to break out. The Pakistani border scout and several others "retreated to a nearby structure", said the US statement. "Close air support was requested and one 500lb bomb was dropped on the target area."
The US army said the incident happened near the Afghan border village of Shkin. But Pakistani officials reportedly claimed yesterday that several bombs had fallen inside Pakistani territory. There was no information about casualties.
The incident will fuel resentment in Pakistan about American handling of the "war on terror" on their soil, which is particularly keenly felt among conservative Islamist elements. It will also reinforce American misgivings about the Pakistani security forces, which have in their ranks elements that sympathise with extremist anti-US militants.
American forces in eastern Afghanistan looking for members of al-Qa'ida say they cooperate with Pakistani forces on the other side of the border, but do not cross into Pakistan to pursue suspects.
The US statement did not say what the Pakistani border guard was doing on the Afghan side. The wounded soldier was flown to Germany for medical treatment, and was said to be in a stable condition.
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd