NATO copter attack kills 15 in Pakistan

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By S Kumar
Date  26 Nov 2011

Pakistan on Saturday accused NATO helicopters of firing on an army checkpoint near the Afghan border and killing seven soldiers, in an attack that is likely to further strain relations between Islamabad and U.S.-led forces fighting in Afghanistan.

The incident late Friday night came a little over a year after U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers near the border, whom the pilots mistook for insurgents they were pursuing. Pakistan responded by closing the border to NATO supplies for 10 days until the U.S. apologized.

In a statement sent to reporters, the Pakistan military blamed NATO for the attack in the Mohmand tribal area. It said casualties have been reported but details were still coming.

Two intelligence officials and a government official said the attack killed seven Pakistani soldiers, including a major, and wounded five others. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

NATO officials in Kabul said Saturday morning that they were aware of the incident, and would release more information after they were able to gather more facts about what happened.

The checkpoint that was attacked had been recently set up in Salala village by the Pakistan army to stop Taliban militants holed up in Afghanistan from crossing the border and staging attacks, said two government administrators in Mohmand, Maqsood Hasan and Hamid Khan.

The Pakistan military has blamed Pakistani Taliban militants and their allies for killing dozens of security forces in such cross-border attacks since the summer. Pakistan has criticized Afghan and foreign forces for not doing enough to stop the attacks, which it says have originated from the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. The U.S. has largely pulled out of these provinces, leaving the militants in effective control of many areas along the border.

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