updated 1/9/2006 8:08:25 AM ET 2006-01-09T13:08:25

Pakistan has protested to the U.S. military in Afghanistan over firing at a Pakistani village near the Afghan border that killed eight people, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said cross-border firing from Afghanistan killed the people in Saidgi village in the tribal region of North Waziristan early Saturday, but added that Pakistan was still trying to determine whether U.S. helicopters landed there as claimed by local elders.

“We have protested to the coalition forces because they are responsible for security on the other side,” Aslam told a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.

“The Americans did not enter our territory. We did receive fire from across the border,” said Aslam, without elaborating. “The Americans have denied their troops were involved in this attack, but we have initiated an inquiry into what exactly happened.”

In Kabul, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Mike Cody said he would look into the alleged incident. On Saturday, he said he had no reports of U.S. forces firing on a village in Pakistan.

Poorly defined border
About 20,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. But neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, says they aren’t allowed to operate on its side of the rugged, sometimes poorly defined border.

Residents said the firing came before dawn Saturday at cleric Maulana Noor Mohammad’s home, killing eight and wounding nine, including women and children.

Momin Khan, a tribal elder, said he and other tribal elders complained to the area’s top commander, Maj. Gen. Akram Sahi, that U.S. helicopters launched the attack, landed and took away five tribesmen, then flew toward Afghanistan.

He said Sahi had assured the elders that Pakistan’s military was investigating.

About an hour after Saturday’s blast, suspected Islamic militants raided a checkpoint on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border 30 miles away, killing eight Pakistani security forces deployed to stop militants from entering or leaving Afghanistan.

On Monday, assailants also fired rockets at a security checkpoint along the border and exchanged fire with troops west of Miran Shah, wounding three soldiers.

The area is a known hide-out for alleged al-Qaida and Taliban sympathizers and extremists, and Pakistan has deployed around 70,000 military personnel to hunt them down. Last month, a senior al-Qaida suspect from Egypt, Hamza Rabia, was killed in the area. Pakistan denied residents’ claims that he died in a U.S. missile strike.

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