QUETTA: Clashes erupted between Pakistani and Afghan troops on Friday along their disputed border killing several people, officials said, in another blow to already tense relations between the neighbours.
At least eight civilians were killed, according to officials — seven on the Pakistani side, and one on the Afghan side — and dozens wounded before the fighting near the Chaman border crossing subsided late Friday afternoon, officials said.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned Afghanistan’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to protest, calling the firing “unprovoked” and saying several people died, without specifying numbers.
Pakistan’s military said the clashes broke out in a remote village near the border town of Chaman as a Pakistani census team, guarded by troops from its Frontier Corps (FC), was collecting population figures. It said at least one person was killed.
“Afghan border police opens fire on FC detailed for security of population census team,” said Pakistan military’s media wing, adding that 18 people were wounded.
“Exchange of fire continues. Chaman crossing closed.”
The Chaman crossing into Afghanistan’s Kandahar province is one of two main crossing points on the border.
Zia Durani, police spokesman for Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, said Pakistani officials were using the census as a cover for “malicious activities and to provoke villagers against the government”.
“They did not heed the warning and we have clear orders to engage them,” Durani said, adding two Afghan border police were wounded.
Relations between the countries have been uneasy since Pakistan’s independence in 1947. Afghanistan has traditionally enjoyed better ties with Pakistan’s arch rival, India.
Afghanistan has for years accused Pakistan of sheltering Afghan Taliban militants on its soil. Pakistan officially denies that even though various Taliban leaders have over the years been killed, died and detained in Pakistan.