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Pakistan rejects new U.S. accusation of leaks

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: A top miltary spokesman admits the Pakistan army notifies tribal elders about raids
  • Pakistani security forces are not warning militants of upcoming U.S. raids, an official says
  • The CIA director has complained to Pakistan that militants flee ahead of U.S. strikes
  • The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is tense after Osama bin Laden's killing

Islamabad, Pakistan(CNN) -- Pakistan's security forces are not tipping off militants about upcoming raids, the country's top military spokesman said Monday, adding that tribal elders are sometimes notified before the military moves into their regions.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas called allegations of leaks "part of a malicious campaign against us."

He was responding to a Sunday report in The New York Times that militants were fleeing bomb-making factories after American intelligence officials told Pakistan about them, heightening U.S. concerns that tips were leaking from Pakistani security to insurgents.

Abbas suggested Pakistan had no interest in letting information get to the targets of the raids, saying: "These are the same bomb-making facilities that are used to kill our soldiers."

But he said tribal elders are sometimes notified before security forces move into a region for an operation. The raids take place in semi-autonomous areas where the Pakistani government's control is tenuous.

Abbas said the exact location of the raids is never revealed. He did not say how much notice or detail the military gave tribal leaders, or how it ensured that they did not pass information to the targets of the raid.

Some tribal leaders are sympathetic to the Taliban. Others oppose them, and some have shifting loyalties.

A second high-ranking military official also rejected allegations by American lawmakers that Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, has contacts with the Taliban and the Haqqani network, another militant group that sometimes works with the Taliban.

"It's totally false," said the official, calling it a "story that appears weekly." The official asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The Times article said militants have twice in the past month evacuated a bomb-making factory after U.S. intelligence told Pakistani counterparts about it.

It's the latest spat between the two countries in an increasingly tense relationship.

The security forces issued a statement Friday denying they were leaking intelligence to militants.

"This assertion is totally false and malicious and the facts on ground are contrary to it," ISI public relations said.

It said four compounds had been raided and people had been arrested. Two sites were found to be making bombs and were destroyed, while "information on others proved to be incorrect."

The statement did not say how many people had been arrested.

CIA Director Leon Panetta complained to top Pakistani brass this month about raids that had failed because of apparent intelligence leaks, a U.S. official said.

The United States had shown the Pakistanis evidence of two bomb-making sites near the Afghan border, the official said, asking not to be named discussing intelligence and diplomatic issues.

The Americans believed the sites were being used to stage attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

When the Pakistanis raided the sites, both were empty.

"The targets appear to have been tipped off," the U.S. official said.

The arrest of suspected CIA informants in the wake of last month's U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan -- and the raid itself -- have also been sources of friction between Washington and Islamabad.

CNN's Reza Sayah and Barbara Starr and journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.