Hoax call to Zardari “put Pakistan on war alert”

(Adds comment from Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London in paras 11-12)

ISLAMABAD, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Pakistan put its forces on high alert after someone pretending to be India’s foreign minister made a phone call to President Asif Ali Zardari threatening war after the Mumbai attacks began, Dawn newspaper said on Saturday.

“It’s true,” a diplomat with knowledge of the exchanges told Reuters when asked whether the report was correct.

Dawn said the Nov. 28 caller threatened military action unless Pakistan acted immediately against the perpetrators of the slaughter in Mumbai, launched two days earlier.

For the next 24 hours nuclear-armed Pakistan’s air force was put on “highest alert” as the military watched anxiously for any sign of Indian aggression, the report said.

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Report: Secret order OKs U.S. raids overseas

N.Y. Times: U.S. targeted al-Qaida fighters in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere

WASHINGTON – The U.S. military has conducted nearly a dozen secret operations against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan and other countries since 2004, The New York Times reported in Monday editions.

Meantime, Pakistan’s president said he expects U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to re-evaluate American military strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban targets on its side of the Afghan border.

Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the Times story said the operations were authorized by a broad classified order that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed and President Bush approved in spring 2004. The order gave the military authority to attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world and to conduct operations in countries that were not at war with the United States.

One such operation was the Oct. 26 raid inside Syria, the Times reported. Washington hasn’t formally acknowledged the raid, but U.S. officials have said the target was a top al-Qaida in Iraq figure. Syria has asked for proof and said eight civilians were killed in the attack.

In another mission, in 2006, Navy SEALs raided a suspected terrorist compound in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The raids have typically been conducted by U.S. Special Forces, often in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. Even though the process has been streamlined, specific missions have to be approved by the defense secretary or, in the cases of Syria and Pakistan, by the president.

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Pakistan facing bankruptcy

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy.

An investor monitors the index at Karachi Stock Exchange in Karachi, Pakistan Photo: BLOOMBERG

Officially, the central bank holds $8.14 billion (£4.65 billion) of foreign currency, but if forward liabilities are included, the real reserves may be only $3 billion – enough to buy about 30 days of imports like oil and food.

Nine months ago, Pakistan had $16 bn in the coffers.

The government is engulfed by crises left behind by Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler who resigned the presidency in August. High oil prices have combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement to inflict huge damage on the economy.

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At Least 21 Killed in US Strike in North Waziristan

A US missile strike destroyed a house in a North Waziristan village today, killing at least 21 people according to a senior Pakistani official. Of the 21, a local official said 16 of them foreigners. He also added that the house belonged to two Afghan refugees who settled in the area after the 2001 US invasion.

Another report claimed that a separate US air strike in a different village early in the morning killed three civilians and injured at least six others. This report was denied by Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, who told the AFP that this second strike was actually on the Afghan side of the border, not on Pakistani soil. He said the US informed the Pakistani government before the Afghan strike, but so far there has been no official military comment regarding the much larger North Waziristan strike.

This is the second US air strike on North Waziristan this week, with a previous attack killing at least nine and injuring several others. The US has been escalating its unilateral attacks on Pakistani soil over the past month, damaging relations between the Bush Administration and the fledgling government of President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistani forces have been reported to open fire on US incursions several times in recent weeks, with the most recent conflict leading to a reported five minute firefight between US and Pakistani ground troops. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani has said the US strikes are a “form of terrorism” and must stop.

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US cross-border attacks a form of terrorism – PM

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday said that attacks by US drones on targets inside Pakistan’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan amounted to “terrorism”.

Talking to reporters at his official residence on the first day of Eid, Gilani rebuffed suggestions that the government had not condemned the incursions as forcefully as it should have.

“These attacks are a form of terrorism,” the prime minister said, adding that such actions encourage and strengthen militancy and were thus counter-productive.

Gilani said the US leadership had assured respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and he hoped that the promise would be kept.

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U.S. says Pakistan shot at U.S. helicopters in Afghanistan

The observer of a helicopter of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sits on the back door during a flight from Feyzabad to Kunduz, north of Kabul, September 24, 2008.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two NATO helicopters fired upon by Pakistani forces on Thursday were U.S. military aircraft operating inside Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

“They were U.S. helicopters,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters at a briefing. “The flight path of the helicopters at no point took them over Pakistan.”

A Pakistani military spokesman said the helicopters had crossed the border into Pakistani territory, while Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, denied troops had shot at the helicopters, insisting that only warning flares had been fired.

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