PAKISTAN was reported last night to have scrambled its fighter aircraft for the first time to repel a US spy plane in its airspace, further raising temperatures in the standoff over Washington's declared determination to launch attacks against militants inside Pakistani territory.
Pakistani newspaper Dawn, in a report from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan that is a hotbed of militant activity, said the US spy plane "was seen in the skies above North Waziristan earlier in the day, but it disappeared as soon as the Pakistani fighters appeared.
"The jets, which were (being) seen for the first time after a series of US attacks in the tribal belt, reconnoitred the region for an hour."
Analysts in Islamabad said the the air force move was the first time that Pakistan's armed forces had directly intervened to defend their sovereignty against incursions by the US-led forces in Afghanistan.
Last week, the Pakistan air force commander, Air Marshal Tanvir Mahmood, told a television interviewer that he had the capacity to deter such incursions, but he could not do anything unless he received orders to act from the Government.
Meanwhile, concern about the security of the key provincial capital of Peshawar mountedafter militants occupied, then abandoned, a government office in what was seen as a symbolic move aimed at showingthe militants' capacity for infiltration.
Peshawar, two hours by road from Islamabad, is the capital of the militant-infested North West Frontier Province, close to the Afghan border.
It is on the main supply route to coalition forces in Afghanistan. Reports said that militants loyal to Mangal Bagh, the leader of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida linked Lashkar-e-Islam group, had taken over the office of Peshawar's City Development and Municipal Department and left only after the Government rushed in a force of 300 commandos and Frontier Constabulary soldiers as well as armoured personnel carriers.
Meanwhile, a further 60 militants were reported to have been killed yesterday in the Bajaur Agency as what a correspondent in the main town of Khar reported last night is now "a fully fledged war" continued with no sign of a let-up.
Pakistani authorities now claim to have killed more than 700 militants in the past six weeks of fighting in Bajaur since launching an attack against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban in the country.
Click to view image: '226441-zzz_fj.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|