NATO helicopters based in Afghanistan once again carried out at least two airstrikes in Pakistan that killed more than 50 insurgents after they attacked a small Afghan security outpost near the border, spokesmen said on Monday.
NATO justified the strikes based on “the right of self-defense.” Pakistan is sensitive about attacks on its territory, but U.S. officials have said they have an agreement that allows aircraft to cross a few miles into Pakistani airspace if they are in hot pursuit of a target.
The first strike took place on Saturday after insurgents attacked an Afghan outpost in Khost province, said U.S. Capt. Ryan Donald, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“The ISAF helicopters voilated Pakistan territory to engage the insurgents,” said Donald.
“ISAF maintains the right to self-defense, and that’s why they crossed the Pakistan border.”
The strike killed 49 insurgents, said U.S. Maj. Michael Johnson, another ISAF spokesman.
The second attack occurred when helicopters returned to the border area and were attacked by insurgents, said Donald.
“The helicopters returned to the scene and they received direct small arms fire and, once again operating in self-defense, they engaged the insurgents,” said Donald.
The strike killed at least four militants, said Johnson.
Pakistani intelligence officials said two NATO helicopters carried out a third strike inside Pakistani territory on Monday morning, killing 5 insurgents and wounding 9 others.
The strike occurred in the village of Mata Sanger in the Kurram tribal area, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Donald, the NATO spokesman, said officials were still investigating and could not confirm or deny reports of the attack in Kurram.