Pakistan is rejecting reports that its intelligence agency let China examine the wreckage of a stealth American helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The New York Times and Financial Times newspapers quoted unnamed U.S. officials who said Pakistan’s intelligence service is believed to have permitted Chinese engineers to photograph and even walk away with samples of the U.S. helicopter, which was equipped with special technology designed to allow the aircraft to elude radar.
U.S. forces involved in the May 2 raid attempted to destroy the helicopter after it crashed into a wall of the al-Qaida leader’s compound in Abbottabad, but the tail section remained largely intact.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said on Monday that neither China nor any other third party had access to the wreckage. Abbas said the wreckage was kept in a secure location under armed guard while in Pakistan’s possession. The military spokesman said the media reports were part of a slander campaign against Pakistan.
The damaged remains of the aircraft were later returned and brought back to the United States.
The New York Times reported that U.S. officials directly confronted Pakistani officials about whether foreign governments had been given access to the wreckage and Pakistan denied the accusations.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been at a low point since the covert operation by U.S. special forces that killed bin Laden. Pakistan sharply criticized the U.S. raid as a violation of its sovereignty.
Tensions between the two countries were already high after a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in January. Pakistan has also repeatedly protested suspected U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in the country’s northwest tribal region.
The U.S. recently suspended about one-third of its $2.7 billion annual defense aid to Pakistan in response to Pakistan’s decision to expel American military trainers and put limits on visas for U.S. personnel.