More gunfire at Pakistan-Afghan border; Afghan guard killed


ISLAMABAD (AP) — Renewed clashes overnight at a Pakistan-Afghan border crossing killed an Afghan border guard and wounded five, an Afghan official said Wednesday, as Islamabad dispatched more troops to the volatile boundary amid an escalation between the two neighbors.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have blamed one another for the latest violence and as tensions run high, both Islamabad and Kabul issued statements urging for a peaceful resolution. However, intermittent shooting continued throughout the day Wednesday, according to two Pakistani officials.

The Afghan guard is the third fatality since Sunday night, when clashes erupted at the Torkham border crossing over the construction of a gate by Pakistan on allegedly disputed territory. Over two dozen border guards from both sides have been wounded so far in the shootouts.

Afghan border police official Jamal Khan said the guard was killed late Tuesday. Another Afghan guard was killed the first night of the violence and a Pakistani officer wounded in the border clashes died on Tuesday.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which lies along the border with Pakistan, appealed on Pakistan to stop shooting toward the Afghan side, adding that fighting “is not the solution.”

In Pakistan, the two security officials who confirmed the latest exchanges on Torkham said there was some damage on the Pakistani side. They did not elaborate and they spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Torkham crossing remained closed Wednesday.

Afghanistan does not recognize the present boundary, the so-called Durand Line, as an international border, and has denounced Pakistan’s plans to erect a fence at the crossing. Pakistan army says it is constructing a gate on its own side of the border as a necessary measure to check for unwanted and illegal movement.

Later Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary called in Afghan Ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal to the foreign ministry to lodge a strong protest, demanding Kabul take immediate steps to end the “unprovoked firing,” a statement said.

Pakistani army spokesman Gen. Asim Bajwa said efforts were underway on the political, diplomatic and military level to halt the escalation. Afghanistan’s parliament also called for diplomatic solution to the conflict.

“It will get resolved,” Bajwa told reporters.

He said Pakistan has seen incursions by militants from across the Torkham border lately, which prompted authorities to implement more effective border control. He said he didn’t know why the Afghan side initiated fire after Pakistan started construction work on its territory but Pakistani troops “effectively responded” after coming under attack.

Last month, the Torkham crossing was closed over a similar incident and reopened following a meeting between Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif and Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal.

___

Associated Press Writer Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.