Pakistani military fires on US helicopters at border

The Pakistani military fired on US helicopters as they attempted to cross the border in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, according to reports from the region. The latest US incursion comes just two days after a suicide bombing destroyed the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Islamabad. A little-known terror group took credit for the strike.

The US incursion occurred near the village of Lwara Mundi, a region dominated by the powerful Haqqani family in North Waziristan. Pakistani regular Army and Frontier Corps units opened fire during two separate incidents, anonymous intelligence sources told AFP.

“Pakistani forces fired at two US gunships which violated Pakistan’s airspace and forced them to return to Afghanistan,” one source told the news agency. “The helicopters flew back after our troops fired shots at them.”

“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,” an official in Islamabad 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.”

The US denied its helicopters attempted to enter Pakistani territory. “There was no such incursion; there was no such event,” Colonel Gary Keck, a Defense Department spokesman told The Associated Press.

This is the third attempt by the US to hit Taliban and al Qaeda camps and safe houses using helicopter-borne troops. The US denied a similar incursion on Sept. 15. US special operations forces attempted to conduct a raid in South Waziristan but were fired on.

A highly controversial US raid occurred in a border village in South Waziristan on Sept. 3. US forces conducted an air assault in a border village in South Waziristan. More than 20 Pakistanis were killed in the attack. The US stated Taliban fighters were killed in the action, while the Pakistani government claimed only women and children were killed.

The Pakistani military said it had direct orders to “open fire” on any US forces attempting to violate Pakistan’s borders.

The US has stepped up attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidated control in the tribal regions and settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. There have been 10 recorded cross-border strikes since Aug. 31. There have been 19 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined. The last attack occurred on Sept. 17.

Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the attacks. The Haqqani Network, the powerful al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group run by Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani, has been heavily targeted as well. These attacks are designed to interdict al Qaeda’s ability to conduct attacks against the West as well as degrade the Taliban’s support network being used against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

Pakistan’s insurgency deepens

The Sept. 20 suicide attack against the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Islamabad is the latest in a series of Taliban and al Qaeda strikes designed to weaken the central government and target Western interests inside the country.

The official death toll stands at 53, but it is expected to rise as there are a number of persons unaccounted for. The majority of those killed were Pakistanis. So far, 21 of those killed are Westerners, including the Czech ambassador, two US Marines, and a Danish intelligence official. Scores more were wounded.

Pakistani officials have not directly implicated a group. But Rehman Malik, the adviser to the prime minister on security issues, said “all roads point to Waziristan,” an obvious reference to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

“This incident has similarities with the attack on the ISI’s Hamza Camp as well as with the two loaded vehicles caught from D I Khan [Dera Ismail Khan], and with the blast outside the Danish embassy,” Malik said on Sunday. “The explosives used in this blast matched those of earlier explosions.” The explosives used in the attack contained military-grade RDX and TNT, and mortar shells and other accelerants were placed in the bomb. Al Qaeda and Baitullah’s Taliban use the same explosive formula.

A spokesman for Baitullah denied involvement in the attack, but a little known Pakistani terror group took credit. The Fedayeen-e-Islam, a group with direct links to Baitullah Mehsud and al Qaeda, claimed they carried out the Marriott attack. The group is believed to be comprised of members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a banned terror group that operates in South Waziristan.

Pakistani security forces arrested three suspects in the bombing today in the city of Kharian in Punjab province. The imam of the Jamia mosque in Kharian was among those arrested.

Elsewhere in Pakistan’s northwest, the attacks and violence continue. Taliban fighters kidnapped Afghanistan’s ambassador-designate to Pakistan in the city of Peshawar. Taliban fighters ambushed the ambassador’s car, killing the driver.

In Swat, a suicide bomber killed nine security officials after ramming his car into a rest house used by the troops. Pakistani forces have been battling the Taliban for nearly a year in Swat, but have failed to dislodge to group from the district.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Rational Inquirer says:

    Some reports of this incident alleged that the U.S. helicopters were filed on by BOTH the Pakistani forces and by the militants. If that is true, why were the Pakistanis and the militants in such CLOSE proximity to each other and yet not fighting each other, choosing instead to attack us? Or am I missing something???

  • Icon says:

    Ally, huh? In WW II, would the Brits or the French have fired upon us? I understand that we have to protect the stability of Pakistan, due to nuclear weapons capability, but this is an ally we can do without. I can only admire our brave forces from afar, but my rules of engagement say if you are fired upon, you have every right to fire back.

  • Raj Kumar says:

    This sort of event will escalate more and more. US will pay a very heavy price for not stepping the Pakistani’s very hard.
    Lets give Pakistani’s some credit here as far as they are concerned they are defending their turf and it is upto us to coerce them into fighting the green beards. Upto date we have not done this, we have shovelled tons of $ bills and lots of green painted equipment for ZERO returns and unless we wise up we will loose the war against the green beards.

  • Son says:

    It is sad to see that we are still at war. I hope that it ends soon.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/23/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • remoteman says:

    I don’t buy it either. By these accounts, our choppers are coming to the border during daylight in a manner where they can be seen on their approach. I assume some small arms fire is turned their way and then they fly off.
    We have no way of knowing if this occurred. We have no way of knowing if the helicopters were transporting a raiding party (they could have been gunships). We have no way of knowing if they were turned back or just came for a look-see to guage reaction.
    If we want to go into the tribal areas with a raid, we are going to do it. A smattering of small arms fire is not going to dissuade us. Whoever is making these claims is making them for internal consumption.

  • Edward says:

    I think it is either a charade by both sides to appear as if they are standing up to us while another attack goes through that you may not be hearing about. Show one face for both sides and slip in behind the public incident.
    I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.

  • Del says:

    I do not like the way the Pakistanis seem to want to play this whole thing with the US both ways. I mean c’mon, either you want our support or you do not!

  • Matt says:

    There is no way the Pakistani military is going to “scare” off the U.S. I would think that the greatest super power in the world would be able to avoid enemies pretty efficiently, but according the the Pakistanis, their ak’s scared the U.S. off. Someone’s not telling the truth and I have a feeling it is the Pakis

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    Disinformation? The forces that fired on a US chopper just up and walked away? There’s something that is not right with this picture.

  • Jeff Scott says:

    I have already lost a friend to the helicopter firings, but it is my belief that we must press on. But will it ever end?


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