ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's military canceled a trip by officers to an annual meeting at US Central Command after they were taken off a plane and subjected to "unwarranted security checks" in Washington, an army spokesman said.
The incident could complicate already sensitive military relations between the US and Pakistan, which are in an uneasy alliance in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants. And it could fall to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to try to smooth over the issue when he meets Thursday with Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and others.
The nine-member Pakistani delegation, headed by a two-star Navy rear admiral, was already aboard United Airlines Flight 727 at Dulles International Airport awaiting take-off 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 their missing their flight, Abbas said. They then called military authorities in Pakistan who instructed them to return home, he said.
One of the group reportedly had told a flight attendant that he hoped the flight was his last, in reference to their long day's travel from Islamabad. The comment prompted concern and security officials were notified, and the delegation was taken off the plane.