Pakistan's troubled battle against a militancy that has never been stronger was on full display today when the prime minister survived a crude assassination attempt and Western soldiers launched an unprecedented cross-border operation in Pakistan's tribal areas that killed at least 19 people.
"Multiple snipers" shot at the motorcade of Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani in the early afternoon as it traveled between the capital, Islamabad, and neighboring Rawalpindi, according to a statement released by his office.
Two bullets struck the bulletproof driver's side window and at least one other struck the front of the car. Gilani was not in the motorcade at the time, causing one government spokesman to call the attack a "warning message."
About 12 hours before, Western troops poured out of at least two helicopters in South Waziristan, where al Qaeda has a close connection with the Pakistan Taliban, and raided three homes in the early morning, according to residents of the town of Angoor Adda. Those killed during the raid included women and children, and Pakistan's foreign office formally complained to the United States, calling the operation "a gross violation of Pakistan's territory."
A State Department spokesman had no comment on the raid and would not confirm reports that U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson was summoned to Pakistan's foreign ministry for a "strong diplomatic protest."
Unmanned U.S. aircraft often patrol the skies over the tribal areas and launch almost weekly missile strikes against what the United States says are militant hideouts. And U.S. soldiers have entered into Pakistan from Afghanistan while in hot pursuit of militants fleeing across the border. But the Pakistani military said today that Western forces had never landed helicopters and conducted an operation inside Pakistan.
The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, was called in for a "strong diplomatic protest" to the attacks, according to a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not confirm Patterson had been called in and declined to comment to ABC News on the raid, but a senior U.S. military official confirmed to the Associated Press that American forces launched the raid
Pakistan is convinced the raid was conducted by American-led forces originating in Afghanistan. Pakistan's military "strongly condemned this completely unprovoked act of killing and regretted the loss of precious lives," a spokesman said in a statement. "Such acts of aggression do not serve the common cause of fighting terrorism and militancy in the area."
The United States and Afghanistan have been urging Pakistan to do more to confront the militants in the tribal areas, where al Qaeda, the Afghan and the Pakistan Taliban and affiliated groups have launched unprecedented attacks on Western bases and soldiers in Afghanistan. It is also where the Taliban have launched suicide attacks across Pakistan, helping destabilize this nuclear-armed country as it copes with one of the worst economies in its history and a volatile political situation.
"The Pakistani Taliban have the capacity to launch bomb attacks, suicide attacks in all the major cities, and against all targets -- the army, the police, business, schools, etc.," says Ahmed Rashid, author of "Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia."