Pakistan Says Not Informed of US Missile Strike

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Reuters

Pakistan Says Not Informed of US Missile Strike

by
Augustine Anthony

Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of Pakistan, is seen during a news conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York in this June 10, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files)

ISLAMABAD - The United States did not inform Pakistan about a missile strike on militants hours after the top U.S. military officer said the United States would respect Pakistan's sovereignty, Pakistan's foreign minister said.

The United States, frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistan with six missile attacks by pilotless drones and a helicopter-borne ground assault this month.

U.S. officials say Taliban and al Qaeda-linked fighters use ethnic Pashtun tribal regions on the Pakistani side of the border as a springboard for attacks into Afghanistan.

But the U.S. attacks have infuriated many in Pakistan, which is also battling al Qaeda and Taliban militants, and the army has vowed to stand up to aggression across the border.

The latest missile strike, on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border on Wednesday evening, killed five militants, and was the result of better U.S.-Pakistani intelligence sharing, a senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the operation told Reuters earlier.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said Pakistani intelligence had been notified of the attack by the United States, but did not say whether it was before or after the missiles struck.

"There was intimation at the intelligence level," he said.

But Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a briefing on Thursday the United States had not warned Pakistan about the attack in advance.

"We were not informed," Qureshi said.

Hours before the strike, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured army commander General Ashfaq Kayani and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the United States would respect Pakistan's sovereignty.

"If having said that, there was an attack later in the night, that means there is some sort of institutional disconnect on their side," Qureshi said.

Such attacks would not improve the situation and were unproductive, he said. The military says U.S. attacks could spark an uprising among Pashtuns in the northwest.

Residents of South and North Waziristan said drones flew overhead again on Thursday but there were no missile strikes.

"BIG CONCERN"

The Wednesday evening attack in South Waziristan was on a container loaded with ammunition. Four missiles were fired at a tented camp, Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan's new government has promised support for the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy even though the campaign is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis.

The anger over the incursions and tension with the United States, Pakistan's biggest donor, compounded worry on Pakistan's financial markets, dealers said.

The rupee was traded at a record low of 77.72 rupees to the dollar and closed at 77.65/75 because of the global financial crisis and concern about U.S. tension, dealers said.

Under former president Pervez Musharraf there was an agreement that the United States could fire missiles at militant targets as long as it informed Pakistan in advance.

But there was believed to have been no agreement on incursions by U.S. ground troops, as happened on Sept. 3 in the South Waziristan region.

"It is a big concern to us ... why are the rules of engagement not being respected," Qureshi said.

U.S. President George W. Bush approved the Sept. 3 assault in South Waziristan without Islamabad's permission as part of a presidential order on covert operations, officials and sources familiar with the matter in Washington said.

But officials and analysts said the Bush administration was unlikely to use commando raids as a common tactic because of the risk to U.S. policy in the region.

In the northwestern town of Dir, two suicide bombers blew themselves up when residents confronted them. No one else was hurt, police said.

Pakistani troops have been fighting militants for weeks in the nearly regions of Bajaur and Swat.

Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba

 

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