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Afghan-Pakistani border tension flares again

Fractious neighbours renew crossfire over disputed gate days after an Afghan border guard was killed in clashes.

Last Modified: 06 May 2013 12:56
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Tensions between the two US allies were stoked after an Afghan border guard died in cross-border clashes [AFP]

Cross-border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani security forces have broken out for the second time in three days, escalating tensions between the two countries, officials have said.

Afghan officials said Monday's crossfire started after Pakistani troops tried to repair a gate on the border in the Afghan district of Goshta, where last week an Afghan border policeman was killed, and two Pakisanis were injured, in an exchange of fire.

"This morning's clash began after the Pakistani side continued to repair the gate, which was damaged in the previous fighting," said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province.

Afghanistan says the gate at Pakistan's Gursal military post encroaches on its territory. The Nangarhar governor has spoken several times to Pakistani consular officials to tell them not to repair the gate, Abdulzai said.

Pakistani officials blamed Afghans for starting the clashes.

"Afghan troops opened unprovoked fire from across the border at our post ... They fired mortars and automatic weapons," one Pakistan official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity. "Our troops responded with retaliatory fire."

Shortly after the skirmish, Pakistan's Foreign Office released a statement saying the "Pakistani post in Gursal had come under attack from Afghan forces and there had been several threatening and provocative statements made by Afghan leadership in this regard.

"The posts on Pakistan-Afghanistan border are serving the useful and mutually beneficial purpose of better border management, which is crucial for interdicting cross border undesirable activity." 

There have not been reports of any casualties so far.

Fractious neighbours

Ties between the fractious neighbours have strained despite renewed efforts last month from John Kerry, the US secretary of state,  to get them to work more closely on peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan lodged an official protest with Pakistan after Monday's incident, with demonstrators rallying again on the streets of Kabul.

Thousdands of Afghans also took to the capital's streets on Friday as they shouted "Death to Pakistan", and burnt Pakistani flags.

The porous border is unmarked in places and a battleground in the fight against Taliban violence plaguing both countries.

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered his top officials to take immediate action to remove the gate and other "Pakistani military installations near the Durand Line".

Clashes last broke out on the border on May 3 killing one Afghan guard and wounding two Pakistani soldiers

The Durand Line is the 1893 British-mandated border between the two countries. It is recognised by Pakistan, but not by Afghanistan.

Afghanistan maintains that activity by either side along the line must be approved by both countries.

Both countries are US allies, but Kabul accuses Islamabad of playing a double game in supporting Taliban attacks on US and Afghan troops.

Pakistan denies the allegations and is locked in its own battle against Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan, which backed the Taliban's control of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, is seen by the West as having a central role in negotiating a political settlement with Taliban fighters who shelter in Pakistan's border districts.

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Source:
Agencies
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