Eight Pakistanis, one Afghan soldier killed in cross-border clash

Cross-border shelling and gunfire between Afghanistan and Pakistan killed eight Pakistani civilians and one Afghan soldier on Sunday, officials on both sides of the frontier said, with each side accusing the other of starting the fighting.

The Pakistan army said Afghan border forces had opened “unprovoked and indiscriminate fire of heavy weapons including artillery/mortar on to the civilian population” at the Chaman border crossing, which links Pakistan’s western Balochistan province with Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province.

Six civilians were killed and 17 wounded on the Pakistani side by Afghan fire, leading Pakistani troops to retaliate, the Pakistan military said in a statement on Sunday.

The death toll rose to eight on Monday as two injured, including a 10-year-old boy, died in a hospital in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, where they had been brought for treatment, hospital official Wasim Baig said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the killings “deserve the strongest condemnation”.

“The Afghan interim government should ensure that such incidents are not repeated,” he said in a statement.

Haji Zahid, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor, said the fighting began after Pakistan objected to Afghan forces building a new checkpoint.

“They didn’t want us to build these posts on our side of the border,” he said, adding it led to a two-hour long gun battle.

Kandahar police spokesman Hafiz Saber said one Afghan soldier was killed and 10 people, including three civilians, were wounded.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have for decades had territorial disputes at their border and the Chaman crossing was closed for several days after similar clashes last month.

Chaman is the second-largest commercial border point between the two countries after Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is a vital source of customs revenue for the cash-strapped administration in Afghanistan.

It was closed for weeks in October by Pakistani authorities because of security threats and disputes over issues ranging from COVID-19 to the validity of Afghan travel documents.

The crossing was closed for some hours on Sunday before reopening, officials on both sides said.

“Such unfortunate incidents are not in keeping with the brotherly ties between the two countries,” Pakistan’s foreign office said, adding that Afghan authorities had been told that a recurrence must be avoided.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said on Twitter on Monday that the repetition of border clashes was “regrettable”.

The Taliban-run Afghan administration called on the Pakistani side to take steps to prevent “provocations that cause violence and adversely affect relations between the countries”, he said.

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