Russia, Tajikistan deny air raids in Afghanistan

Afghan officials said clashes broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards before the air attack.

A border guard stands on a bridge to Afghanistan at Tajikistan's Panji Poyon border outpost [File: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

Russia and Tajikistan said on Monday they were not behind air raids in northern Afghanistan after Afghan officials accused Russian or Tajik aircraft of bombing positions in the country. 

Afghan media, quoting Takhar province’s spokesman, Mohammad Jawed Hejri, said clashes broke out on Sunday between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. 

Hejri said “foreign” fighter jets intervened but couldn’t verify if they were from Russia or Tajikistan. Officials in both Tajikistan and Russia denied any involvement.

Cross-border clashes are rare on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan, compared with fighting along its eastern border with Pakistan.

Khalil Asir, a spokesman for Takhar’s provincial police, said eight Taliban were killed and six wounded in air strikes after a clash in which two Tajik border guards were killed.

Russia said its military aircraft had not conducted any operations near Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan, RIA news agency cited the defence ministry as saying.

A spokesman for Tajik border guards in Dushanbe said Tajikistan had not carried out any bombings and did not confirm the death of two border guards.

However, the official, who declined to be identified, said three Tajik forestry workers had been attacked by intruders from Afghanistan. Two were killed while the third escaped.

Security in Takhar has deteriorated recently as armed groups regularly attack security checkpoints in the province. Much of the porous Afghanistan-Tajikistan border is in mountains and difficult for Tajik authorities to police.

‘No permission’

Afghan government officials say Russian forces, including aircraft, help Tajikistan with security against the Taliban and other armed groups. At the same time, drugs from Afghanistan are smuggled to the outside world through Tajikistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said there had been a clash – and an air attack – but it was between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards and the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.

“Taliban fighters have no permission to clash with neighbour countries,” he said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said the American military did not conduct any air raids in the area.

A retired Afghan air force general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, said those responsible for the air attack should be identified.

“Afghanistan has no control over its airspace due to a lack of facilities. US forces should follow up the case,” he said.

Source: News Agencies