September 26, 2008

Pakistani Forces Fire on U.S. Helicopters

U.S. and Pakistani forces exchanged gunfire touched off by Pakistani troops firing on U.S. helicopters near the Pakistani-Afghan border, officials said.

Pakistani officials said the two Kiowa OH-58 reconnaissance helicopters entered Pakistan's tribal regions, which the Pentagon denied, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

No casualties were reported. After forces from a Pakistani outpost fired on the aircraft, a small-arms fight ensued when a ground unit of U.S. and Afghan troops returned fire, U.S. military officials said.

The U.S. military said the helicopters were to support a small ground force conducting "routine operations" Thursday on the border while Pakistani officials said the aircraft moved into Pakistani airspace and flew over the North Waziristan tribal area for 20 minutes, the Times reported.

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan have risen since the U.S. military stepped up cross-border raids and the number of attacks from unmanned Predator aircraft in tribal areas.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called the incident a misunderstanding but said Pakistanis should have known their target.

"We know the challenges on the border but it is not too difficult to imagine who is flying helicopters there," he said. "Pakistan is an ally, not an enemy."