US attack pushes Afghanistan war into Pakistan
Simon Tisdall & Saeed Shah, Guardian, Islamabad, Sept. 3
The war in Afghanistan spilled over into Pakistani territory for the first time today when heavily armed commandoes, believed to be US special forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village. The early morning attack on Jala Khel killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than a mile from the Afghanistan border. Local residents were quoted as saying most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. Major-General Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistan army, said NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had carried out the raid. “Two helicopters of ISAF landed very early in the morning and conducted a raid on a compound there. As per our report, seven civilians were killed in this raid.” But a NATO spokesman denied involvement. “There has been no NATO or ISAF involvement crossing the border into Pakistan,” the NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. There were unconfirmed reports that the incursion was carried out by US special forces, which are not under ISAF command and can operate independently. A US military spokesman at the Bagram base near Kabul did not deny an attack had occurred but declined to comment.
Official Pakistani condemnation swiftly followed the attack amid growing concern that the NATO-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could spread to Pakistan, sparking a region-wide conflagration. Owais Ahmed Ghanisaid, the governor of North-West Frontier province, which adjoins South Waziristan, said 20 people had died and called for retaliation by the Pakistani army. “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,” he said. The foreign ministry in Islamabad said the incursion was “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and a “grave provocation” that had resulted in “immense” loss of civilian life. “Such actions are 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 we are trying to extinguish.” “This is a very alarming and very dangerous development,” said a former senior Pakistani official. “We have absolutely been telling them (the US) not to do this but they ignored us.”