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Pakistani Army Recovers US Drone Near Afghan Border

Pakistani military officials say they have recovered an American drone aircraft that crashed in a village near the Afghan border. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that locals in the region say they shot down the drone, but the military is denying the claim.

Locals in South Waziristan told reporters that Pakistani border troops shot down the drone late Tuesday.

By Wednesday afternoon, army spokesman Major Murad Khan said the military had recovered the drone and an inspection indicates it was not shot down.

He says it was flying along the Pakistan - Afghan border and when it crashed because of technical reasons, the wreckage fell on Pakistani territory. He says the military does not believe the drone operation was a violation of Pakistani airspace.

The drone crashed in a village near Angoor Adda - where U.S. troops conducted a controversial cross-border raid earlier this month.

That incident drew harsh criticism from the Pakistani military and politicians, who warned the unilateral military strikes undermine the war against terrorism and could spark a backlash in the tribal areas.

Pakistan's military has said that it retains the right to retaliate in self defense against any foreign aggression.

In recent weeks, Pakistani intelligence officials have twice reported that border guards fired on U.S. helicopters flying near the Pakistani border. The reports have not been independently verified and U.S. and Pakistani military officials have denied any such incidents have occurred.

Following complaints by U.S. defense officials that Pakistan's military had backed away from confronting militant groups in the tribal regions in the past year, the U.S. defense secretary recently praised Pakistani military offensives.

Since early August, Pakistani forces claim they have killed nearly 700 militants in the Bajaur tribal agency and battled with militants in the Swat valley. On Tuesday, the military said its troops engaged in heavy fighting in Darra Adam Khel, killing some 50 fighters and re-securing a key tunnel that had been controlled by Taliban since late August.