Pakistan hit by claim that army agreed to Nato strike

Tensions rise as US plans new wave of cross-border raids on Afghan militants

Pakistan's army was on the defensive yesterday, trying to explain why its air force had not reacted to the killing of 24 troops by Nato as it was confronted with a version of events from US officials that starkly differed from the one it has presented.

The Nato air strikes on 26 November have provoked a crisis between Washington and Islamabad. The Pakistanis have already decided to block Nato's supply routes through the country, to order the CIA to evacuate an airbase and to boycott this week's Bonn conference on regional security.

In a further development yesterday, it was reported that Nato is planning a substantial offensive against militants in eastern Afghanistan. The increase in aggression is likely to stoke tensions between Nato and Pakistan, with cross-border raids into the country and an increase in the use of drones and other air power expected as part of the campaign.

Nato is believed to be targeting several Pakistan-based groups, which have gradually increased their activities in Afghanistan, in an effort to contain them before the handover to Afghan security forces in 2014. Nato and the US have expressed their condolences for the lives lost in last Saturday's attack, but have resisted offering an apology as they wait for the outcome of an investigation.

Some details of the US's own account have leaked out. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that a Pakistani liaison officer at one of the border coordination centres the two sides use to track their efforts jointly gave Nato the all-clear to mount the air strike.

The Pakistani officer, the newspaper reported, was apparently unaware that his own troops were located at the target. If true, the claim alters the Pakistani narrative which alleges that it was an "unprovoked act of blatant aggression".

In a statement, the Pakistan army pushed back against the report, saying that it "categorically" denies this version of events. "Wrong information about the area of operation was provided to Pakistan officials a few minutes before the strike," the statement said. "Without getting clearance from Pakistan side, the post had already been engaged by US helicopters and fighter jets," it continued. The involvement of fighter jets is disputed. At a briefing, the Pakistan army's director general of military operations, Major-General Nadeem Ishfaq, said that there were up to three Nato helicopters involved in the air strikes.

It is unclear where the initial burst of fire – which Nato says was from the Pakistani side of the border – came from. US officials told The Wall Street Journal that Afghan forces and American commandos were pursuing Taliban militants when they came under fire from an "encampment along the Afghan-Pakistan border".

The Pakistanis say that they were told of the incident before the air strikes, but deny that any fire emanated from their side. According to their account, the incident only came to an end after Major-General Ishfaq told a Nato commander to pull back the helicopters. It is, however, a mystery why the Pakistanis did not call in their own air force during what was claimed to be a two-hour assault. Similar questions were asked after the 2 May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, when Pakistan said it "scrambled the jets" but was not able to reach what they considered to be helicopters violating their sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard said yesterday that 22 people were arrested outside the US embassy in London during a protest over use of drones in Pakistan organised by a group calling itself United Ummah.

Police said the people were arrested on suspicion of being members of a group banned by the Home Office. It would not say what group it believed the suspects belong to. One person was arrested for violent disorder and another for obstruction. United Ummah does not appear on the Home Office's list of banned groups, but proscribed organisations have rebranded themselves after they were featured.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
election 2015
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal for Real Madrid against Juventus
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
voicesArmando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power