Border clashes erupt again days after Kabul ‘apology’

Published December 16, 2022
Chaman: A man shows bullet holes on his truck following cross-border shelling and gunfire in this town along the border with  Afghanistan, on Thursday.—Reuters
Chaman: A man shows bullet holes on his truck following cross-border shelling and gunfire in this town along the border with Afghanistan, on Thursday.—Reuters

• One killed, 15 injured as Afghan forces attack another team repairing border fence
• Both sides blame each other for instigating deadly exchange of fire

QUETTA: Four days after Afghan authorities “apologised” to Islamabad over cross-border shelling that claimed the lives of eight people, armed clashes erupted between security forces from Pakistan and Afghanistan at the border in Chaman on Thursday, leaving at least one dead and 15 others injured.

In a statement, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) — the military’s media wing — said indiscriminate fire from inside Afghanistan on the civilian population of Chaman, that continued intermittently through the day, left many innocent civilians injured.

“The injured include innocent women and children,” ISPR said.

However, Kabul appeared to blame Pakistan for the act of aggression. In a post on Twitter, the Taliban ministry of defence claimed that Pakistani forces had opened fire first, and called for a resolution of the issue through negotiations.

“Negative actions and creating excuses for war will benefit no one,” the ministry said.

Zahid Saleem, the Balochistan Additional Chief Secretary for Home and Tribal Affairs, told Dawn that there had been at least one fatality and 15 injuries in total.

Five of the injured said to be in serious condition, and those in need of intensive case, have been shifted to the trauma centre at Quetta’s Civil Hospital, while 10 were admitted to the district hospital in Chaman.

An emergency was also declared in government hospitals in Quetta and Chaman.

On Sunday, shelling by Afghan forces and a subsequent gun battle in the area had left eight dead and over a dozen injured, while at least one Afghan soldier was also killed in the exchange of fire.

There was no official word from the Foreign Office or Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who had told parliament earlier this week that Kabul had apologised for Sunday’s incident and said they would take steps to ensure that such an event did not occur again.

Thursday’s fighting started while Pakistani personnel who were repairing a portion of the border fence, damaged during Sunday’s clashes, came under attack from the Afghan side.

“Afghan forces opened fire when Pakistan border authorities started repairing the damaged fence near border village Sheikh Lal Khan,” a senior official posted in the border town told Dawn.

He said that security forces immediately returned fire. Both sides used heavy weaponry in the gun battle, which continued intermittently until the late evening.

Afghan forces used mortar shells and artillery, which landed in civilian settlements, causing civilian casualties.

A mortar shell also exploded close to a Frontier Corps fort, but no loss of life was reported. Afghan forces also targeted the Changez, Shoukat, Ilyas and Tanveer posts.

In the border village of Killi Bacha, at least seven people were injured when a mortar shell hit a settlement in the Reg area, west of Chaman.

Sources said that Pakistani forces responded by hitting the Abdullah Kandak area on the other side of the border, where Afghan forces had deployed artillery and mortars.

There was a lull in the exchange of fire in the afternoon, but Afghan forces started firing once again in the evening. This continued for around an hour, and Pakistani forces responded in kind.

Although Chaman Deputy Commissioner Abdul Hameed Zahri has declared emergency in the border district soon after attack from the Afghan side, the Friendship Gate between Chaman and Spin Boldak remained open until its scheduled closing time of 5:30pm and border crossings and transit trade continued as per routine throughout the day.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2022

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