Pakistani major, 3 Afghan soldiers die in firing

Pakistani major, 3 Afghan soldiers die in firing at border crossing

Islamabad/Kabul, June 15 (IANS) Tension remained high at a Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing as firing between forces of the two countries claimed the lives of five Afghans, including three soldiers, since Sunday, while a Pakistani Army major wounded in the clashes died on Wednesday.

The clashes erupted at Torkham, the main crossing point between the two sides, after Pakistani forces on Sunday attempted to construct a gate on No Man’s Land without informing the Afghan government, triggering a gun battle between the two sides.

“Since eruption of conflict and fire exchange at Torkham border, three Afghan Border Police personnel and two children have been killed,” Attaullah Khogiani, a provincial Afghan government spokesperson told Xinhua. He also confirmed that 23 others including a civilian sustained injuries.

The official said that no firing had taken place since early Wednesday and those who have shops and business at the Torkham border town have begun shifting their establishments to safer places, and added that the situation is tense.

A spokesman for the Afghan foreign Ministry Shukib Mustaghni described the incident as “unpleasant”, and said that Afghanistan adheres to its previous accords with Pakistan and stresses on peaceful methods and expects the Pakistani side to tackle the problem through diplomatic channels.

Although Afghan ranking officials are tight lipped, Afghan media has reported the clash at Torkham, and according to media reports, both sides have suffered casualties.

Afghans in different provinces including eastern Nangarhar, southern Helmand and northern Takhar provinces organised rallies and announced their support to Afghan security forces at Torkham. Afghan Mushrano Jirga or upper house of Parliament has condemned the alleged incursion of Pakistani troops in Torkham and called upon the government to solve the problem through diplomatic channels.

In Islamabad, Pakistan summoned the Afghan envoy Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and lodged a protest over the death of an army Major in shelling by Afghan forces.

Major Ali Jawad Khan, who was injured in cross-border firing at Torkham on Saturday, died of wounds in a military hospital in Peshawar on Tuesday.

“Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary today called in Afghan Ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lodge Pakistan’s strong protest over the shahadat (martyrdom) of Major Ali Jawad Khan, an officer of Pakistan Army, who was injured on 13 June due to unprovoked firing by Afghan security forces at Torkham border crossing,” a foreign ministry statement said.

“The Afghan government was urged to take immediate steps to bring this unprovoked firing to an end,” the statement stated.

The foreign secretary rejected allegations from Afghanistan that the construction of a gate by Pakistan was in violation of the agreements and understandings reached between the two countries.

The foreign secretary stressed that Pakistan was undertaking the gate construction on its side to regulate the movements of people as well as of vehicles with the prior agreement of the Afghan government.

He expressed concern over the continued firing by the Afghan forces in the last few days with a view to disrupt the gate construction.

Pakistan military also said that the country wants to peacefully resolve the border issue with Afghanistan.

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