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Pakistan Denies Return of US Trainers

  • VOA News

Pakistan army soldiers patrol in the vicinity of the army training camp in Mardan near Peshawar, Pakistan. (File)

Pakistan army soldiers patrol in the vicinity of the army training camp in Mardan near Peshawar, Pakistan. (File)

The Pakistani military is denying that U.S. military trainers have returned to the country, a move that would indicate a thawing of relations after coalition airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops last November.

The Reuters news agency reported Wednesday that "fewer than 10" U.S. special operations soldiers had been sent back to a training site in northwestern Pakistan. But in a text message to VOA Thursday, Pakistani military officials said the report was "incorrect, misleading and baseless."

Pakistan suspended the U.S. training program and shut down the ground supply routes for U.S. and NATO soldiers into Afghanistan in response to the airstrike last year near the Afghan border. Coalition officials said the deadly strikes were an accident.

Doctor who helped CIA

In another development, a Pakistani militant group has denied having any ties to the doctor who helped Washington locate al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Members of Lashkar-e-Islam said Thursday the group had no links to Shakil Afridi. They called him a traitor and an enemy of Islam, and said they would punish him themselves if given the opportunity.

A court document released Wednesday showed a tribal court in the northwestern Khyber agency convicted Afridi of assisting militants in the region. The judgment said the doctor met with commanders of Lashkar-e-Islam, giving them medical treatment and financial help.

The court sentenced Afridi last week to 33 years in prison. He was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help the CIA obtain genetic samples of bin Laden and his family to confirm the al-Qaida leader's presence at a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in a covert raid last May.

The document also says an investigation report contains evidence that Afridi collaborated with foreign intelligence agencies, but that the court in Khyber has no jurisdiction to act on the evidence. The tribal court recommended that such evidence may be produced before an appropriate court for further proceedings.

Afridi's brother, Jamil Afridi, said this week that Shakil did not get a fair trial and vowed to appeal the verdict. In an interview with VOA, Jamil Afridi also expressed concerns about his brother's detention, saying he should be given protection inside prison.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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