BRUSSELS: Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday he had written to Pakistan premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to express regret over the “tragic, unintended” deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike.
“I have written to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to make it clear that the deaths of Pakistani personnel are as unacceptable and deplorable as the deaths of Afghan and international personnel,” he said in a statement. “This was a tragic unintended incident.”
"I offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the Pakistani officers and soldiers who lost their lives or were injured, and to the government and people of Pakistan, following the regrettable incident along the Afghan-Pakistani border,” Rasmussen added.
Pakistan says two border posts were fired upon “unprovoked” in the early hours of Saturday in Pakistan's tribal Mohmand district.
An investigation of the incident is likely to ask whether Afghan and American troops on the Afghan side of the border were fired upon first - whether by insurgents or Pakistani military.
According to a report in the New York Times, A Nato spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, offered details suggesting that allied and Afghan troops operating near the border came under fire from unknown enemies and summoned coalition warplanes for help.
The NY Times report stated that: “In the early night hours of this morning, a force consisting of Afghan forces and coalition forces, in the eastern border area where the Durand Line is not always 100 per cent clear, got involved in a firefight,” General Jacobson said, according to a transcript of his statements on Nato TV that the alliance provided American officials on Saturday.
Pakistan on Sunday conveyed its “rage” to the United States over cross-border Nato air strikes and ordered a full-scale review of its frosty alliance with Washington and the military bloc.
Pakistan represents a vital life-line to supply 130,000 foreign troops fighting in landlocked Afghanistan, and Rasmussen joined US efforts in a scramble to salvage the alliance.
“I fully support the ISAF investigation which is currently underway,” he said of the International Security Assistance Force fighting the war and which includes non-Nato allies.
“We will determine what happened, and draw the right lessons,” Rasmussen added.
“Nato remains strongly committed to work with Pakistan to improve cooperation to avoid such tragedies in the future.”
Earlier Sunday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar telephoned US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and conveyed a “deep sense of rage” as the military organised a joint funeral for the 24 troops who died.