(AFP) – Sep 22, 2008
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani troops twice opened fire to repel two US helicopter gunships which violated Pakistani airspace in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, officials said Monday.
The incidents happened about half an hour apart on Sunday evening near Lwara Mundi village in the North Waziristan district, where Pakistani forces have been battling Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, they said.
"Pakistani forces fired at two US gunships which violated Pakistan's airspace and forced them to return to Afghanistan," a local security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The helicopters flew back after our troops fired shots at them."
A senior security official based in Islamabad said later that the helicopters were repelled on two separate occasions by both army troops and soldiers from the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC).
"The helicopters were heading towards our border. We were alert and when they were right on the boundary line we started aerial firing, they hovered for a few minutes and went back," the official said.
"About 30 minutes later they made another attempt. We retaliated again, firing in the air and not in their direction, from both the army position and the FC position, and they went back," he added.
There was no immediate comment from the Pakistani military or the US-led coalition in Kabul.
The incident comes amid growing anger in Pakistan at raids from Afghanistan by US-led coalition troops targeting Islamic extremist hideouts.
A September 3 ground attack by US commandos in the neighbouring tribal district of South Waziristan left 15 people dead, sparking a furious response by Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
In another incident, shots were fired when US helicopters neared the Pakistani border on September 15. There have also been almost daily US missile attacks on militant targets in Pakistan in recent weeks.
US President George W. Bush will meet Tuesday for the first time with his new Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, amid the strains between the two allies in the "war on terror."
Bush and Zardari, who was sworn into office on September 9 to take over from former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Pakistan is also on edge after a bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed at least 60 people.
The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said during a visit to Islamabad on September 17 that Washington respects Pakistan's sovereignty.
Hours after his visit, at least five people were killed when four missiles fired by suspected US drones struck a compound in South Waziristan.
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