US ground assault fuels anger in Pakistan

Other News Materials 4 September 2008 15:24 (UTC +04:00)

The lower house of Pakistan's bicameral parliament on Thursday simmered as it debated the US forces' incursion into the north-western tribal region, considered a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, reported dpa.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said US troops violated the United Nations principles and international humanitarian norms by launching a ground attack into Angor Adda area of the South Waziristan tribal district on Wednesday, killing around 20 people.

"Neither do we have any information nor has the world has been told that any known terrorist or high-value target was among the casualties," Qureshi informed the house.

Investigations have revealed that innocent citizens, including women and children, were targeted, he added.

The foreign minister said Pakistan was committed to fighting the menace of extremism and terrorism along the border with Afghanistan, but it would defend its "sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"Incidents like Angor Adda will prove counterproductive given the fact that they can impede the cooperation (among the coalition partners in the war on terror)," Qureshi stressed.

The US forces operating in Afghanistan have launched several aerial and missile attacks in the restive tribal region, but Wednesday's raid was the first known ground assault by the foreign troops inside Pakistani territory.

According to security officials and locals, helicopter-borne American commandos carried out the pre-dawn blitz on the house of a tribesman, identified as Payo Jan, killing 10 members of his family. At least 10 more people were killed when the soldiers fired at Jan's neighbours who came out of their houses after hearing the gunshots.

The cross-border attack was strongly condemned by Pakistan's five-month-old government and the US ambassador in Islamabad, Anne W Patterson, was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which lodged a formal protest against "the gross violation of Pakistan's territory and immense loss of civilian life."