At least six civilians have been killed by “unprovoked” firing from Afghan forces near the Chaman border, Pakistan’s military said, in the latest deadly flare-up at the border between the neighbouring countries.
The Pakistani army’s media wing said on Sunday that the fire wounded 17 people, and it blamed the casualties on the “unprovoked and indiscriminate fire” of heavy weapons by Afghan forces on civilians.
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The violence hitting Chaman in southwestern Pakistan follows a series of deadly incidents and attacks that have raised tensions with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. Chaman is the main border crossing for trade between the two countries.
In Afghanistan, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor, Attaullah Zaid, appeared to link the clashes between Pakistani and Taliban forces with the construction of new checkpoints on the Afghan side of the border.
Kandahar police spokesman Hafiz Saber said one Afghan soldier was killed and 10 other people, including three civilians, were injured.
Pakistan’s army said troops responded to Afghan fire, but its media wing didn’t give further details. It said Pakistan has approached authorities in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to highlight the severity of the border incident.
Afghan official Noor Ahmad, in Kandahar, told Reuters the situation had returned to normal after the two sides held a meeting.
A doctor with a government-run hospital in Chaman, Akhtar Mohammad, told The Associated Press that live rounds injured 27 people who were brought into the hospital for treatment. Of these, six died and seven were in critical condition.
‘A big explosion’
A resident on Pakistan’s side of the border, Wali Mohammad, took his wounded cousin to the hospital in Chaman. He said there were a number of explosions followed by rapid gunfire.
“We were in the street like any other day off when suddenly a big explosion was heard and debris hit many people, including one of my cousins,” said Mohammad.
A deadly shooting in November shuttered the border at Chaman for eight days, causing heavy commercial losses and leaving thousands of people stranded on both sides.
Later in the month, Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul came under gunfire days after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar travelled to Kabul to meet her Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Pakistani officials called the incident an “assassination attempt” on its envoy there and blamed Taliban officials for the security breach.
Islamabad also has said that Afghanistan’s rulers are sheltering fighters from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group, which carries out deadly attacks on its soil.
The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, has been fighting the Pakistani state for more than a decade. The armed group, which is ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban, demands the imposition of its readings of Islamic law and the release of its fighters, among other issues.
The TTP has carried out attacks after it ended a months-long ceasefire agreement with Islamabad.