Pakistan artillery kills 15 civilians in Afghanistan after clashes at closed border

Hundreds of protesters ransack quarantine centre near Chaman border. SCREENGRAB

However, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry blamed the Afghan military, saying Afghan forces "opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians".

Afghan officials accused Pakistan of firing shells and gunfire across the border into a crowd of civilians, killing 15 people, while Islamabad said Afghan forces opened fire first.

According to the statement, Pakistan troops which were deployed on the posts by the Friendship Gate "were also simultaneously engaged by Afghan posts".

The Foreign Office said the firing incident at its border with Afghanistan at Chaman, that resulted in casualties, was an act of self-defence to protect local population.

The artillery fire came after clashes between Pakistani and Afghan security forces at the closed Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing, where crowds on both sides were waiting to cross for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

It said military and diplomatic channels were used to defuse the situation and the military engagement ended after "hectic efforts".

The statement read, "Pakistan is undertaking concerted efforts to ensure regulated movement of trade between the two countries, which are being challenged by elements opposed to such regulation".

The crossing, mostly shut during the COVID-19 pandemic, was briefly opened on Wednesday and had been due to reopen on Thursday to allow nationals of both countries to cross for Eid, which falls on Friday in Afghanistan and Saturday in Pakistan. However, according to the Foreign Office, people gathered for this goal were deliberately targeted by Afghan forces for incomprehensible reasons.

When it did not open, a large crowd gathered to protest, and a quarantine centre and a Pakistani government facility for processing movement at the crossing were burned down, a Pakistani official at the border told Reuters.

He said the recent shooting incident was incited by protesters who entered the red zone and set the coronavirus quarantine center on fire.

The FO said that despite the unfortunate incident, "Pakistan reiterates its honest readiness to further enhance fraternal relations with Afghanistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region". We hope our constructive efforts will be reciprocated, said the FO spokesperson.

Abdul Malik Achakzai, a doctor in charge of the Chaman Civil Hospital in Pakistan, told Pakistani media outlet Dawn that three dead bodies and almost 20 wounded people were brought to his hospital for treatment Friday.

Pakistan and Afghanistan on Friday traded allegations over deadly border firing incident that caused casualties on both sides.

Balochistan Interior Minister Zia Lango told a news conference in Quetta that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been closed for security reasons.

The minister said Pakistan was trying to normalise the situation but reiterated that standard protocols related to travel through legal documents would continue. He said the PTI government was committed to sticking to the established worldwide practices with regard to its border with Afghanistan.

"They tried to cross into Afghanistan by force and also damaged our posts, and unfortunately at the same time shots were fired from the other side". And Pakistani forces also reacted.

Earlier, the exchange of fire between the Pakistan and Afghan forces along the Chaman border stopped after the intervention of tribal leader and MPA Asghar Khan Achakzai, who held contacts with Afghan officials.

Despite conciliatory signals from Pakistan, the Afghan side appeared aggressive, at least in its post-clash tone.



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