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Pakistani Civilian, Military Leaders Warn US about Future Raids

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, May 5, 2011

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, May 5, 2011

Pakistan's army said Thursday that it will review ties with Washington if the U.S. launches any more raids on its territory. The statement came just hours after Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir defended the work of Pakistan's military and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, following the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden early Monday.

In its first statement since Monday's raid, Pakistan's army warned that any future raids would result in a review of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States. It also said that U.S. military personnel in Pakistan would be reduced to the "minimum essential" levels.

Thursday's army statement gave no details, but it came amid Pakistani anger over the American special operation that killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in the city of Abbottabad.

No prior warning

Earlier in the day, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir reflected that anger during a lengthy press conference in which he accused the U.S. of having violated the country's sovereignty by staging the raid without Pakistan's knowledge or permission.

"This matter of sovereignty and the violation of sovereignty and the modalities for conduct, for combating terrorism raises certain legal and moral issues," noted Bashir.

U.S. officials say they did not contact Pakistan's leadership until the raid was well under way out of concern that someone within the Pakistani establishment would tip off the al-Qaida leader, allowing him to escape.

Pakistan is suspected of having provided a safe haven to members of al-Qaida and other extremists, and that suspicion has been compounded by the fact that bin Laden's hiding place was in a prominent Pakistani town that is also home to the country's military academy, and other military and security institutions.

But Foreign Secretary Bashir dismissed these concerns, calling them false charges.

Important ally

Bashir pointed to the fact that since the start of the "war on terror," Pakistan has been at the forefront of combating terrorist groups, especially through the efforts of the its intelligence service, the ISI.

"More than any other agency, including the CIA, the performance of the ISI in interdicting al-Qaida does not really compare with any other intelligence agency of the world," added Bashir.

Critics both in Pakistan and internationally are demanding that Pakistani officials clarify what they knew and when they knew it.

Foreign Secretary Bashir repeatedly said Thursday that despite these problems, the relationship with the U.S remains stable and mutually beneficial.

Speaking in Rome, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that while the relationship is not always easy, it remains strong and productive.

Important ally

The Pakistani foreign secretary also said Islamabad regards the United States as an important friend and appreciates comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama reaffirming that relationship.

Clinton said Thursday the United States and Pakistan do not always have an "easy relationship." But, she said it is a "productive" one for both countries and Washington intends to continue cooperation between the governments, militaries and law enforcement agencies of the two sides.

Speaking on a visit to Rome, Secretary Clinton said the battle to stop al-Qaida and its affiliates does not end with "one death." She said the U.S. resolve to keep up that fight is "even stronger" after bin Laden's killing and predicted it will "have an impact" on U.S. forces trying to defeat a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

New details

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Bashir also offered new details about the Pakistani military's response to the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. He said the military first knew something was happening when one of the U.S. helicopters involved in the raid malfunctioned.

The foreign secretary says the government responded to the raid by mobilizing the Pakistani army, intelligence agency and air force, which scrambled two F-16 fighter jets. He says it took about 15 minutes for the first units to reach the site, which is located about 900 meters from a military academy in Abbottabad. He said the road from the academy to the compound spans four kilometers.

Bashir says that by time Pakistani security forces reached the compound, the raid was over and the Americans had left. He says the top U.S. military officer Admiral Mike Mullen called Pakistani authorities at 3 a.m. Pakistani time Monday to alert them about the raid once it was over.

Navy SEALs

U.S. media reports quote unnamed Obama administration officials as saying the only shots fired at the Navy SEALs who raided the compound came from a guest house at the start of the 40-minute-long nighttime operation.

The officials are quoted as saying the SEALs then killed the al-Qaida courier who fired those shots, while a woman inside the guest house died in crossfire. After that incident, they say the SEALs assumed "everyone" in the compound was armed and dangerous.

The U.S. officials told the news agencies that the SEALs went into the compound's main house, saw a man thought to be hiding a weapon and killed him. They say that as the SEALs went up a staircase, they ran into a son of bin Laden and killed him too, perceiving him to be a threat.

The officials say that when the SEALs entered a room on the top floor of the main house, they saw bin Laden within arm's reach of several weapons and shot him in the head as well as wounding a woman who was with him. U.S. officials have said bin Laden made a threatening move at the time but was unarmed.

New photos

The Reuters news agency has published several photos that it says were taken by a Pakistani security officer in the compound hours after the raid. The photos include graphic images of the bodies of three men lying in pools of blood. Reuters says the Pakistani officer sold the photos to the news agency and it has verified their authenticity.

The U.S. officals also are quoted as saying the Navy SEALs spent much of the remaining time at the compound removing computer equipment, mobile phones and documents that they hope contain valuable intelligence about al-Qaida.