U.S., Pakistan exchange shots at volatile border: CNN

U.S., Pakistan exchange shots at volatile border
CNN, September 25, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. and Pakistani troops exchanged fire Thursday along the Pakistani-Afghan border minutes after the Pakistani military fired shots at two American helicopters that were providing cover for the troops, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The U.S. Army OH-58D Kiowas, part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, were patrolling the Pakistani-Afghan border when the Pakistani military fired on them, NATO and U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani military said the fire was warning shots, and President Asif Ali Zardari said it was flares. Both Zardari and the Pakistani military said the helicopters had crossed into Pakistani territory -- a charge U.S. officials denied.

Rear Adm. Greg Smith of U.S. Central Command said the helicopters were providing cover for a small U.S. military unit accompanying an Afghan border police unit on a routine patrol.

After the shots were fired at the helicopters, Smith told CNN, the U.S. troops fired "suppressing rounds" into a nearby hill to get the Pakistanis to stop. That prompted the Pakistani troops to stop firing at the helicopters and fire instead in the direction of the troops, he said. The U.S. troops then returned fire, Smith said.

No injuries were reported in the five-minute incident.

Smith and other U.S. officials said the helicopter crews did not fire back.

But the Pakistanis disagreed, asserting in a written statement that the helicopters "returned fire" after the initial shots were fired.

"The helicopters passed over our border post and were well within Pakistan territory" at the time that "security forces fired anticipatory warning shots," the Pakistani statement said.

After the shots were fired, "the helicopters returned fire and flew back."

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