U.S., Pakistani Troops Trade Fire On Border

U.S. and Pakistani ground troops traded gunfire during a bloodless, five-minute skirmish on the Afghan-Pakistan border, U.S. military officials said Thursday.

U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith confirmed the exchange, which was certain to heighten tensions over cross-border operations in an area known as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Smith said it began when Pakistani forces fired on two American helicopters escorting Afghan and American ground troops along the volatile border.

He said U.S. forces responded with small-arms fire directed at the outpost, and Pakistani forces returned fire against the ground units.

There were no casualties reported in the exchange. The official said the helicopters were flying about a mile inside the Afghan border. Smith said U.S. troops did not cross into Pakistan.

However, the Pakistani military said the helicopters crossed "well within" Pakistani territory.

Earlier Thursday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said his country's forces have fired flares at NATO helicopters in the border area to ensure they did not cross into Pakistani territory.

"They are flares, they are flares, just to make sure that they know they have crossed the border line," said Zardari, when asked to comment on helicopters from the NATO-led force in Afghanistan being fired on from a military checkpoint along Pakistan's border on Thursday.

Zardari, speaking to reporters in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan was often unclear. Rice agreed that the boundary between the two countries is often difficult to determine.

Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday suspended consular services in Pakistan in response to a worsening security situation there, the State Department said Thursday.

Based on reports from NPR and The Associated Press.

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