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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-Officials with the Pakistani military have angrily denied that Pakistani military positioned at posts near the border fired upon Coalition forces causing the deadly airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Afghan government officials had earlier claimed that the airstrike happened only after being fired upon from those outposts. Other Western officials say it is unclear if the gunfire came from the outposts or from insurgents sheltering near the installations.
The airstrike, that took place on Saturday marks the deadliest instance of Pakistani forces killed by coalition forces thus far in the ten year war, and the event has enraged Pakistanis throughout the country.
A senior Pakistani military official speaking under terms of anonymity, said, “Why should they be firing … toward the Afghan side with small-arms fire? The checkposts are very well known to the Afghan army and to NATO forces. … No one can miss them or mistake them to be anything other than Pakistani army checkposts.” The official was not authorized to speak on the matter officially.
Spokesman for the Pakistan Army, Major General Athar Abbas, said, “Now they’re coming up with excuses to wriggle out of the situation, saying they fired in retaliation, we don’t accept that.” He reports that his military tried to alert the coalition forces that they were firing on a Pakistani installation, but that the western forces continued attacking the facility.
Streets throughout the Asian country were populated with angry demonstrations Sunday. Islamic movements and radicals in the country have sworn to wage jihad against the U.S. in retaliation for the attack.
NATO officials have stated that they hope that the incident doesn’t derail efforts to root out the insurgents from the region, but Pakistani officials said they are reviewing drawing back their level of cooperation.
Today Pakistan’s Interior Minister announced that the closure of supply routes into Afghanistan will be permanent closures not temporary as on other occasions. Pakistan has also ordered the departure of American troops from an airbase in the province of Baluchistan that has been used for launching drone attacks against rebels along the border.
Pakistan’s cooperation is seen as crucial to the negotiations that need to take place as the U.S. strives to move its troops from the region and bring a close to the decade long war.