At Least 13 Dead, 80 Wounded In Pakistani-Afghan Border Clashes

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - At least five Afghan checkpoints near the border with Pakistan were destroyed and 50 security forces killed in fighting in recent days, Pakistan's military said Sunday, even as Afghan officials dismissed the claims as "baseless".

"We had warned Pakistan that if they undertook any census activity [in the divided villages] we will retaliate", said General Abdul Raziq, Afghan regional police chief.

Pakistani and Afghan troops exchanged fire for several hours on Friday along their disputed border, officials on both sides said, as tension between the neighbours flared into deadly violence.

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Nafeez Zakaria said the census workers were on their side of the border when Afghan forces opened fire. The unfortunate episode led to the death of at least 12 innocent people and injured more than 40, including women and children.

An emergency was imposed in Chaman.

Chaman, one of the two main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was closed in the wake of the incident, with firing ongoing, Pakistani military spokesman Asif Ghafoor said in a statement.

The Wesh-Chaman border crossing is a major border crossing between the two countries.

Last year, Pakistan started building a barrier at the main border crossing in the town of Torkham, near the Khyber Pass, angering Afghanistan which has never formally recognised the colonial-era Durand Line border drawn up in 1893.

"As a close neighbor to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Chinese side hops that the two sides will properly address the relevant issue", he added.

Pakistani Maj. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza asked the Afghan military to ensure its forces stay on their side and take every step to "defuse the situation" while the Pakistani military would "work within our own border".

They blamed Pakistani census enumerators, who were accompanied by soldiers, for straying across the border, a charge Islamabad denied.

The workers and their escorts were going door-to-door in villages along the border as part of a nationwide census, which began in March.

The 2,500 kilometer-long border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is largely unpoliced and passes through much mountainous terrain.

After over a month of closure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered reopening of the borders as a goodwill gesture.

Meanwhile, security officials continued their consultation with the tribal elders and elite of the area on border management.

  • Leroy Wright