October 6th, 2010
01:31 PM ET

'Better coordination' could have averted Pakistani deaths, panel says

The deaths of two Pakistani border guards, victims of gunfire from a coalition helicopter last week, could have been averted with better communication, a NATO and Pakistani team determined.

"We believe the Pakistani border guard was simply firing warning shots after hearing the nearby engagement and hearing the helicopters flying nearby," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Tim Zadalis, the assessment team leader for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"This tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistan military."

The incident spurred Pakistan's closure of the main land route for NATO supplies crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan - an area known as the Torkham border.

ISAF said two border forces were killed and four others were wounded on Thursday. Earlier, Pakistani sources said three died.

The initial assessment into the incident by the Pakistan military and NATO's International Security Assistance Force team said two coalition helicopters passed from Afghanistan into Pakistan airspace several times.

The choppers then fired on a building that was identified later as a Pakistani border outpost. It was a response to shots fired from the site, ISAF said in a news release..

"The assessment team considered it most probable that they had fired in an attempt to warn the helicopters of their presence. Unfortunately, following the engagement, it was discovered that the dead and wounded were members of the Pakistan Frontier Scouts," the release said.

Gen. David Petraeus, ISAF commander, offered condolences.

"We deeply regret this tragic loss of life and will continue to work with the Pakistan military and government to ensure this doesn't happen again," he said.

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Filed under: Afghan security forces • NATO • Pakistan
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