ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Islamist militants who flowed out of Afghanistan fought a second day of fierce battles with Pakistani security forces yesterday in one of the deadliest clashes on the Pakistan side of the frontier in months. Authorities said 63 people were dead.
Signaling a deepening of the rift with the United States and voicing Islamabad's anger over the attacks, the government issued a statement voicing Pakistan's "strong concern" about the attack.
Pakistan's military had initially said the assault was the work of about 200 militants, but the government statement put the number at between 300 and 400. It said the fighters "attacked villages and burned schools."
The militant attack and Pakistan's reaction contradicted the U.S. narrative about the poorly defined and porous border. Typically, militant cross-frontier movements originate in Pakistan, leaving the United States and NATO to gripe at Islamabad over its failure to stop the infiltration.
The new battles found Pakistan the aggrieved party, lending credence to Pakistani army commanders' complaints that NATO was failing to crackdown on militants sheltering on the Afghan side of the rugged frontier.
The government statement said the foreign secretary had "stressed the need for stern action by the Afghan Army, US and NATO/ISAF forces in the area against militants and their hideouts in Afghanistan and against organizational support for the militants."
The fight started when the militants crossed into Pakistan on Wednesday. By nightfall yesterday, 25 soldiers, 35 attackers and three civilians had died in fighting, regional police chief Ghulam Mohammed said.
Beyond emphasizing the difficulties of fighting an enemy that pays no attention to borders, the battle pointed to possible trouble for both the United States and Pakistan when Washington begins withdrawing troops later this year. Pakistan is complaining NATO doesn't have enough troops along the Afghan side of the border.