US gave wrong info before strike, says Pakistan

US officials gave Pakistan soldiers the wrong location when asking for clearance to attack militants along the border last weekend, Pakistani military officials said on Friday.

The strike resulted in the deaths of 24 soldiers and a major crisis in relations between Washington and Islamabad. The claim was the latest in a series by mostly anonymous officials in both countries, which try to explain what happened before and during last Saturday's bombing of two Pakistani border checkpoints by US aircraft.

NATO and America have expressed regret for the loss of lives, but have rejected Pakistani descriptions of the incident as a deliberate act of aggression. The incident has pushed already strained ties between Washington and Islamabad close to rupture, complicating American hopes of securing Pakistan's help in negotiating an end to the Afghan war.

In retaliation for the raid, Islamabad has already closed its eastern border to NATO supplies travelling into landlocked Afghanistan.

Thousands of Islamist extremists and other demonstrators took to the streets across the country after Friday prayers to protest the strike. Some called on the army to attack the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

The chants were a worrying sign for the West, indicating that anger over the incident is uniting hard-liners and the military. US officials have told The Associated Press that Saturday's incident occurred when a joint US and Afghan patrol requested backup after being hit by mortar and small arms fire by Taliban militants.

Before responding, the patrol first checked with the Pakistani army, which reported it had no troops in the area, they said. US officials say that Pakistani troops had ‘given the go-ahead’ for the strikes, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

This account would suggest that the Pakistanis were at least partly to blame for the deadly error. A Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information confirmed that the American had provided his side with a location for the planned strike.

However, he said, the information arrived late, Pakistan never cleared the strike, and the coordinates provided were incorrect anyway.

"Wrong information about (the) area of operation was provided to Pakistani officials a few minutes before the strike," he said. "Without getting clearance from Pakistan side, the post had already been engaged by US helicopters and fighter jets."

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