Declan Walsh in Islamabad guardian.co.uk, Sunday June 15 2008 Article
Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai today inflamed tensions with neighbouring Pakistan by threatening to send troops across the border to hunt the Taliban leadership.
Karzai said his country had the right to defend itself against insurgents crossing from rear bases in Pakistan's tribal belt. His comments came as the manhunt for 900 escaped prisoners continued across southern Afghanistan.
"When they cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same," he told journalists in Kabul.
"Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house," he said, referring to the militant leader accused of orchestrating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
"And the other fellow, Mullah Omar of Pakistan, should know the same," he continued, referring to the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar.
His language and message was aggressive even by the testy standards of Afghan-Pakistani relations. Pakistan's prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani responded firmly, saying he would "[not] allow anyone to interfere in our national limits and our affairs", and insisting that a stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan's interests.
Karzai's outburst came on the heels of Friday night's spectacular jail break by the Taliban in Kandahar, when dozens of militants mounted a multi-pronged assault on the city jail that freed 890 prisoners including 390 Taliban fighters.
The US military said today that it killed 15 suspected insurgents during a firefight at a farmhouse outside Kandahar as troops combed the area the fugitives. A statement said that fighters opened fire on coalition troops as they approached the building, prompting an American air strike. That version of events could not be independently confirmed.
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