Pakistani leaders lodged a diplomatic protest with the United States Wednesday, saying an airstrike by U.S. forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers stationed along the border.
The Pakistan government said the U.S. military did not consult them before conducting the airstrike on Pakistan's shared border with Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said the incident is being investigated.
U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson was summoned to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, where Pakistan's government also lodged a diplomatic protest. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued a statement of apology.
"The United States regrets that actions ... on the night of June 10 resulted in the reported casualties among Pakistani forces, who are our partners in the fight against terrorism," the statement said. It also expressed condolences to the families of the dead.
U.S. officials said that about a dozen bombs were launched from Afghanistan into Pakistan, after allied troops in Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, came under attack.
Late Wednesday, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said the strike was a legitimate response after coalition forces were attacked. He said it was too soon to know if the soldiers had indeed been killed in the strike.
"We are aware of some of the concerns that have been expressed by the Pakistani army and other elements of the Pakistan government; we are working with the Pakistani government to try to get to the bottom of this incident," he said.
The incident has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, where a new government is trying to negotiate a peace deal with tribal leaders in the border region.
U.S. officials have voiced concern about security in the region. On Monday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeated U.S. fears that if left unchecked, the ungoverned border region will likely spawn the next attack on U.S. soil. That area is also where some believe Osama bin Laden is hiding.