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December 12, 2019
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Exchange of fire on Pak-Afghan border kills Afghan guard

ISLAMABAD: Renewed clashes overnight at a Pak-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 traded blame for the latest violence while calling 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 disputed territory. Over two dozen border guards from both sides have been wounded so far.

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, called 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 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.

Intelligence and defense officials briefed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the situation Wednesday. The meeting was attended by Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and speakers of the upper and lower houses of parliament, a statement issued by Ghani’s office said. The statement called for a “diplomatic solution” while expressing support for the security forces.

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’s 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.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary summoned the Afghan ambassador to lodge a protest, demanding Kabul take immediate steps to end the “unprovoked firing,” a statement said.

Pakistani army spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa told reporters that efforts were underway on the political, diplomatic and military level to halt the escalation, saying “it will get resolved.”

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. – AP

Image: The Express Tribune