Pakistan Expresses ‘Serious Concern’ Over Cross-Border Attacks

Posted July 6th, 2011 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai by phone Wednesday to express “serious concern” regarding the activities of militants along the countries' shared border.

The conversation came hours after Pakistani officials said hundreds of militants crossed from Afghanistan and attacked several border villages in Pakistan's northwest.

The prime minister's office released a statement saying that Mr. Gilani told President Karzai that the Pakistani army was exercising the “utmost restraint, despite repeated cross border incursions by the militants' raids from the Afghan side into Pakistan.” He said the issue needs to be “defused quickly.”

According to the statement, President Karzai expressed his readiness to send coalition and Afghan commanders for a meeting on the issue and that the two countries can thwart the militants through close coordination and understanding.

Wednesday's attack was the latest in a series of reported incursions that has raised tensions between the two countries.

Officials said militants raided villages in the Upper Dir region of Pakistan, clashing with soldiers and local militias.

There were reports of casualties among both militants and local tribesmen, but it is unclear exactly how many people were killed or wounded. The region is largely closed to reporters and outsiders due to security and government restrictions, so information is difficult to independently verify.

Pakistan says militants allegedly coming from Afghan bases have killed more than 55 soldiers during the past month. Meanwhile, Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of intentionally firing hundreds of rockets into its territory, killing at least 36 Afghan civilians. Pakistan's military denies the allegation but says several rounds fired at militants may have landed over the border.

Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants often cross the porous border between the two countries to carry out operations.

Elsewhere in Pakistan's northwest tribal region, Pakistani intelligence officials said troops backed by helicopters killed at least four militants in North Waziristan.

Officials said the battle broke out in the town of Miran Shah after the militants attacked Pakistani soldiers.

The Pakistani military has launched ground operations against the Pakistani Taliban but refuses to expand its operations at the request of Washington to attack Afghan Taliban fighters based in North Waziristan. Pakistani military officials say they want to secure gains made in other tribal regions before tackling another area.

It is unclear whether the militants killed Wednesday were Pakistanis or foreigners.