ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- There are more private security contractors from Xe, formerly Blackwater, operating in Islamabad than capital police, a religious leader said.
Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a Deobandi political party in Pakistan, said there were as many as 9,000 Xe contractors working in Islamabad, compared with just 7,000 capital police, Pakistan's News International reports.
The Pakistani Taliban last week said attacks in the Lower Dir District of Pakistan's North-West Frontier province killed U.S. personnel, claiming the attack was an act of revenge against Xe contractors operating in the region.
Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, confirmed the deaths were U.S. military personnel but described the Taliban claims as propaganda.
Their deaths are the first known U.S. military fatalities in Pakistan.
Fazal blamed foreign contractors for instability in the country, saying they undermined an already weak democratic government. He equated Xe contractors with the insurgent Taliban.
Washington linked stability in Pakistan to the success of its counterinsurgency battle in neighboring Afghanistan, encouraging Islamabad to step up domestic security measures. Pakistan in October launched its own offensive in the volatile tribal regions near the Afghan border.
Fazal during a weekend meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said an immediate halt to military activity in the tribal areas would bring normalcy to the region.