NEW YORK (Reuters) – Pakistani politician Imran Kahn, a former cricket star and critic of U.S. drone strikes, was briefly delayed and questioned by U.S. immigration officials in Toronto before being allowed to board a flight to New York.
Khan told his followers on Twitter on Friday that he was detained and interrogated about his views on drones.
A State Department official confirmed Khan had been briefly detained, but said the Pakistani politician was later released to travel the United States. “The issue was resolved and Mr. Khan is welcome in the United States,” said the official.
The State Department provided no details about why Khan was detained, and officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were not immediately available for comment.
Khan, who led a protest march to northern Pakistan earlier this month to protest U.S. drone strikes, sent a message about the incident on Twitter on Friday, vowing to continue opposing the deadly attacks. “Nothing will change my stance,” he said.
“I was taken off from plane and interrogated by U.S. Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan tweeted on Friday afternoon.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said the politician arrived safely in New York on Friday, the first day of the Muslim Eid-al-Adha holiday, after the delay at the Toronto airport and went directly to a fundraising lunch.
Pakistani authorities earlier this month stopped a protest led by Khan from entering the troubled region of South Waziristan, a tribal area frequently hit by drone strikes.
Khan blames the Pakistan government for allowing the United States to operate in the country, and has said he will order the Pakistani air force to shoot the unmanned planes down if he wins next year’s elections in Pakistan.
Earlier this month, Khan led a march to northern Pakistan to protest the drone strikes, which have killed between 2,600 and 3,400 Pakistanis, according to the independent London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Some Pakistanis say Khan is fanning anti-American sentiment to bolster his political career and criticize him for refusing to condemn atrocities by the Taliban or Pakistani army.
Others praise him for reaching out to Pakistan’s northern tribal areas and say he is standing up for a war-ravaged population ignored by mainstream politicians.
The United States says the strikes have killed top Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders and that civilian casualties are minimal. But it has not said how targets are selected or how the military determines whether the dead were fighters or civilians.
(Reporting by Katherine Houreld in Islamad and Andrea Shalal-Esa in Washington; Editing by Vicki Allen)