Pakistan Army Cancels U.S. Trip Amid Search Dispute
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's military canceled a trip by officers to an annual meeting at U.S. Central Command after they were taken off a plane and subjected to "unwarranted security checks" at Dulles International Airport in Washington, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The row appeared to be a sign of the mistrust between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries, which are nominally allies in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaida but have long had an uneasy relationship.
The nine-member delegation was headed by a two-star Navy rear admiral. Its members were awaiting take off on a United Airlines flight to Tampa, Fla. -- where Central Command is based -- when the incident took place Monday, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.
The delegation was taken off the plane and subjected to "unwarranted security checks" that resulted in them missing their flight. They called military authorities in Pakistan who instructed them to return home, Abbas said.
United Airlines officials were not immediately available for comment.
Dawn newspaper reported that the delegation was taken off the plane after a passenger voiced concerns they may have posed a security threat.
Increased airport checks at U.S. airports in response to the threat from Islamist militants after the Sept. 11 attacks are a sensitive issue for many Pakistanis, who frequently complain they are being unfairly singled out.
A group of Pakistani lawmakers on a State Department sponsored visit to the United States in March returned home early after complaining of excessive security checks and were hailed as heroes by sections of the media on their return.