Report: CIA head in Pakistan leaves after death threats
Officials at Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Foreign Ministry refused on Saturday to comment on reports of the hurried departure of the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) operations in the country, DPA reported.
US officials told the New York Times that the CIA station officer had to leave because of death threats he was receiving after his identity was revealed in a legal complaint registered with Pakistani police by families of the victims of US drone attacks in the tribal region along the Afghan border.
Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer representing the families, identified Jonathan Banks as CIA head in Pakistan last month in a press conference. He claimed that the officer was running a network of spies in Pakistan's tribal region and directed drone attacks that also killed innocent people.
American officials suspect that the ISI had a hand in revealing the CIA officer's identify, apparently in retaliation for a civil lawsuit in the US last month against ISI chief General Shuja Pasha for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the newspaper reported.
"I don't think we need to comment on this report. We have no clue why the CIA officer left Pakistan," said a senior ISI official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Pakistani foreign office also declined to comment.
The report showed deep mistrust between the two intelligence agencies, key partners in rooting out the Islamist insurgency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Washington suspects elements within Pakistani spy agencies of backing, or at least turning a blind eye to, Taliban and al-Qaeda militants operating from bases in the tribal region.
Pakistan denies the allegations, saying thousands of its troops have sacrificed their lives fighting Islamist insurgents since 2001 when it joined the US-led international alliance against militants in Afghanistan.
Since Thursday, when the CIA officer reportedly left the country, US pilotless drone aircraft have intensified their campaign in the tribal region to attack militant hideouts.
By Friday afternoon, four drone strikes had killed more than 50 people and injured dozens in Khyber, one of the seven tribal districts.
Pakistani intelligence officials alleged that many among those killed were Taliban fighters.