US CENTCOM team due in Islamabad for joint missile probe

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Islamabad, Jun 16 (UNI) A high-level US Central Command (CENTCOM) team is expected to arrive in Pakistan within the next 48 hours to work out modalities for a joint investigation into the June 10 air strike by the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan on a Pakistani check-post at Gora Prai in Mohmand tribal region.

The US team, which was being dispatched by the Pentagon, would firm up modalities and timeframe of the joint investigation with the military officials here, the News reported today.

While confirming that Pakistan and the US had agreed to hold a joint investigation of the Mohmand Agency attack and the decision was taken at the ''highest level'', military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas was non-committal on the question of when the first US team would arrive here to discuss the matter.

Asked if the probe was likely to be conducted under the mechanism of the Tripartite Commission, he said that was yet to be decided.

However, he noted that the matter would certainly be taken up at the next meeting of the commission but gave no dates for it.

He indicated that details of the composition, size and other related matters pertaining to the joint investigation team were likely to be worked out in the current week when it would also be clear at what level the probe would be conducted.

Ms Elizabeth Colton, the spokesperson of the US Embassy in Islamabad said when contacted, ''The commander, US CENTCOM, has directed to conduct an investigation into this incident; the Pakistan Army has accepted a request to participate in this investigation.'' Responding to a question, she added, ''There will be no comments from the US regarding the conduct of this investigation while it is ongoing, in order to protect the integrity of the investigative process.'' NWFP Governor Awais Ahmad Ghani told a private TV channel that US members of the joint investigation team might arrive in Pakistan today. On being asked about the timeline for the joint investigation, he remarked, ''It could be done even in a day.'' According to sources, within 36 hours of the attack on the border post, the idea of joint investigation had emerged.

US CENTCOM chief, telephoned Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaz Kiyani and offered to hold joint investigation into the incident. US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, who was here last week, also talked to his Pakistani counterpart after the attack.

The June 10 air strike in Mohmand Agency resulted in killing of 11 Pakistani soldiers and more than half a dozen civilians.


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