Contrary to earlier reports on an attack on security forces in Khyber Agency, military commander Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik claimed on Tuesday that the deaths had been a result of ‘friendly fire’.
Late on Monday night it was reported that 14 people had been killed in Bara area of Khyber Agency in a militant ambush on a security forces’ convoy.
But at the funeral prayers of the slain soldiers in Peshawar, Malik told reporters that 13 soldiers, including two senior officers, died when a mortar shell fired as the cover missed its target and landed where the troops were located.
General Malik said that the mortar cover was asked for by the troops themselves, after they came under attack from militants. “When our soldiers came under fire, the commanding officer called mortar fire twice. The second mortar missed its target and hit our own soldiers,” Malik said.
“There is a possibility of error in mortar fire when troops are themselves under fire,” he said.
“Troops were conducting a routine search and cordon operation in the area on information that militants who were threatening Peshawar’s security had gathered in the area,” he said.
He said that there were deaths and arrests of militants during this operation but offered no details. WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2011.