An American surveillance drone equipped with a camera crashed in southwestern Pakistan Thursday close to the Afghan border, local officials said, adding the wreckage had been recovered.
The unmanned aircraft went down because of a technical fault just inside Pakistani territory in Chaman town, in insurgency-hit Baluchistan province, but had caused no damage, a security official in the area told AFP.
“It was an American surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle. It crashed on this side of the border,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding the wreckage of the aircraft had been recovered.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Pakistan probably let Chinese engineers examine what was left of a top-secret US stealth helicopter that crashed in the country during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
Citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said US intelligence agencies concluded it was likely that Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani spies — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States are at a low point, strained by the covert American raid that killed bin Laden near Pakistan’s main military academy and Pakistan’s earlier detention of a CIA contractor.
An official from Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in Quetta, Baluchistan province’s main town, confirmed Thursday’s incident.
“Some spare parts and a camera were also found with it,” the official said. “It crashed near a Frontier Corps fort in Chaman but caused no damage.”
Such crashes of US drone aircraft are rare but a Pakistani surveillance drone went down in the city of Karachi in July after hitting a bird on a routine flight.
In September 2008, tribesmen in the country’s South Waziristan tribal district claimed to have shot down a US surveillance drone in Jalal village near the Afghan border.
The Pakistani army said it was investigating but did not make the results of that probe public.
The United States uses unmanned aircraft in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and to monitor militants in Pakistan, from where Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked fighters launch attacks in Afghanistan.
It also uses Predator armed drones to launch missile attacks aimed at militants in Pakistan’s unstable northwestern border areas.
The campaign is deeply unpopular among an anti-American public and the government has publicly demanded an end to the attacks, although in private military and civilian leaders are thought to co-operate with the programme.