Pakistan US war of words intensifies over drone strike target

Pakistan US war of words intensifies over drone strike target
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday maintained that the drone attack in Kurram Agency targeted an Afghan refugee camp in tribal area after a US statement said that the drone strike hit militant hideout.

The drone strike, which took place well inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday, killed two people .

US Embassy in a statement earlier today stated that Pakistan´s claim that the drone strike hit a refugee camp is "false".

The Foreign Office spokesman condemned the "unilateral action" late Wednesday, saying it had targeted an Afghan refugee camp, but made no mention of casualties.

"The claim in (a foreign ministry) statement yesterday that US forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency yesterday is false," a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad said.

Local officials have told AFP that the pre-dawn strike took place more than 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Afghan border, in the village of Mamuzai in Kurram district in Pakistan´s semi-autonomous tribal region.

The FO spokesman said there are two refugee camps in the area, and that the drone hit one of them.

"Pakistan condemned the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) yesterday, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp," the spokesman said.

"Pakistan has also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them."

Nearly 1.4 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan, according to UNHCR figures. Unofficial estimates suggest a further 700,000 undocumented refugees could be in the country.

After Washington froze aid to Pakistan worth almost $2 billion this month, Islamabad set a deadline of January 31 for all the refugees to return to Afghanistan. Such deadlines have been repeatedly extended in the past.

Following the freeze, the Pakistani military said US Central Command had assured them Washington "is not contemplating any unilateral action" inside Pakistan. - AFP

The freeze has cooled relations between the ostensible allies and prompted indignation in Pakistan, which says the US does not recognise the thousands of lives it has lost and billions it has spent battling extremism.

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