Islamabad – A NATO jet and helicopters entered Pakistani airspace Tuesday starting an exchange of gunfire between coalition and Pakistani forces. The Pakistan army has lodged a “strong protest” after two NATO helicopters injured two Pakistani soldiers in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, the BBC reports. An army spokesman said NATO “violated Pakistan airspace” and demanded a meeting with NATO officials.
A NATO spokeswoman offered little detail about the incident. “We’re aware of a cross border incident. We’re still assessing the situation,” said Lt. Commander Kaye Sweetser, a spokeswoman for the coalition troops quoted by CNN.
Pakistani intelligence officials said the incident started when a NATO fighter jet entered Pakistani airspace near the border with Afghanistan. This prompted Pakistani troops to begin firing at the jet from the ground, said the officials who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The jet retreated and then returned accompanied by helicopters and fired on a military check post in the village of Admi Koth, the officials said.
The incident comes at a time when Pakistani officials are sensitive about foreign incursions into their nation.
In recent days, officials have bristled about the unauthorized U.S. raid into Pakistan to kill terror leader Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani parliament recently condemned the raid and adopted a resolution calling for a review of its counter-terrorism cooperation agreement with the United States. According to CNN, the United States has sent drones to strike at suspected militants in Pakistan five times in the last 11 days, nearly triple the pace prior to the successful May 1 raid to kill Osama bin Laden. The latest strike occurred Monday, when a suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal region killed 10 suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials told CNN.
Meanwhile, Pakistan was due to return to the United States on Tuesday the remains of a stealth helicopter used in a special forces raid to kill al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Pakistani television said, quoting army sources.