Drone strike threatens to strain Pak-US ties afresh

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Islamabad, Mar 18: A drone strike that killed 41 people in Pakistan's lawless northwest threatens to strain Pak-US ties afresh, with Islamabad demanding an "apology and explanation" from Washington after its powerful Army Chief described the attack as an "aggression against people of the country".

Such acts are "unjustified and intolerable under any circumstance", Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said in an unusually strong condemnation of the attack which he termed as "carelessly and callously targeted".

Describing the attack as "violation" of human rights, Kayani said "It is highly regrettable that a jirga (council) of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life."

Kayani said that such acts of violence "will take us away from the objective of eliminating terrorism".

"It is imperative to understand that this critical objective cannot be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all," the Pakistan Army chief said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also strongly condemned the drone strike. In a statement, Gilani said the attack "will only strengthen the hands of radical and extremist elements".

Gilani said, "such irrational behaviour negatively impact the efforts to separate the militants from the peaceful and patriotic tribesmen" and that "such attacks will bode very negatively on our joint efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism".

The attack by the CIA-operated spy planes came a day after a Pakistani court pardoned and freed American security contractor Raymond Davis, whose arrest in Jan on murder charges had plunged ties between the two countries to a new low.


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