Pakistan dispatches supplies to southwest border villages


QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan dispatched truckloads of relief supplies Saturday to villages along the southwest border with Afghanistan, where 11 people were killed in fighting between the two countries prompting Pakistan to close a border crossing, officials said.

Akhtar Mohammad, a doctor at the government-run Chaman hospital, told The Associated Press that dozens of persons wounded in Friday’s skirmishes were still being treated and that “some of them are still traumatized.”

More than 50 Pakistani villagers and several troops were wounded when Afghanistan allegedly fired across the border on census workers and troops escorting them. Pakistan responded by shutting the border and firing artillery shells that killed six Afghans.

The gunfire from Afghanistan came as census workers escorted by troops were going door-to-door in villages located along the border as part of a nationwide census, which began in March.

The ensuing exchange of fire reignited a centuries-old border dispute between Islamabad and Kabul at the boundary, known as the Durand Line, which runs through some villages. Pakistani officials said Saturday they were still busy in assessing damages caused by the Afghan artillery.

Pakistan says the Afghan government was informed about the census being undertaken on its side of the border and exact coordinates of the areas were also shared with Kabul.

Friday’s fire ended when local commanders from the two armies communicated on a hotline that is set up between top army officers from the two sides to defuse tensions.

In strongly worded televised remarks, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said Saturday that the latest skirmishes were a reflection of the “nexus” between Kabul and New Delhi.

He said Kabul did not positively respond to efforts made by Islamabad to improve relations with Afghanistan in recent months. Asif warned that Pakistan would respond “fittingly” to Afghanistan if any further violations were committed along the border.

Also on Saturday, Samim Khpolwak, spokesman for the governor in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, said an overnight meeting between officials from both sides ended without a positive result. He said the border is still closed.

Meanwhile, an Afghan truck driver was killed after a rocket fired from across the border on Friday hit him in Nangarhar province, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

He said the situation at the Torkham border was now normal.

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Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.