Eight Pakistanis and an Afghan soldier killed in cross-border clash

QUETTA: Cross-border shelling and gunfire between Afghanistan and Pakistan killed eight Pakistani civilians and an Afghan soldier on Sunday, officials on both sides of the border said, with each side blaming the other for triggering the fights.
The Pakistani army said Afghan border forces opened “unprovoked and indiscriminate heavy weapon fire including artillery/mortar fire on the civilian population” at the Chaman border crossing, which links Pakistan’s province of West Balochistan to the southern province of Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Six civilians were killed and 17 wounded on the Pakistani side by Afghan fire, prompting Pakistani troops to retaliate, the Pakistani army said in a statement on Sunday.
The death toll rose to eight on Monday as two injured people, including a 10-year-old boy, died at a hospital in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta where they had been taken for treatment, it said the head of the hospital, Wasim Baig.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the killings “deserved the strongest condemnation”.
“The Afghan caretaker government should ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” he said in a statement.
Haji Zahid, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said the fighting started 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 that this 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 injured.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have had decades of territorial disputes on their border and the Chaman crossing point was closed for several days after similar clashes last month.
Chaman is the second commercial border post 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 due to security threats and disputes over issues ranging from Covid-19 to the validity of Afghan travel documents.
The crossing was closed for a few hours on Sunday before reopening, officials on both sides said.
“Such unfortunate incidents are not in line with the fraternal ties between the two countries,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said, adding that Afghan authorities had been advised that a repeat should be avoided.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said on Twitter on Monday that the repeat border clashes were “regrettable”.
The Taliban-led Afghan administration has called on the Pakistani side to take measures to prevent “provocations that cause violence and negatively affect relations between countries”, he said.


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