KABUL (AFP) – At least five children and a woman were killed in an eastern Afghan province when Pakistani military forces fired rockets along the border in a pre-dawn assault Saturday (March 16), an official and a resident said.
Since the Taliban seized power last year in Afghanistan, border tensions between the neighbours have risen, with Pakistan alleging militant groups were carrying out attacks from Afghan soil.
The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants, but are also infuriated by a fence Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-km border known as the Durand line, which was drawn up in colonial times.
An Afghan government official and a resident in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province said Pakistani forces fired rockets early on Saturday that left six people dead.
“Five children and a woman were killed and a man wounded in Pakistani rocket attacks in Shelton district of Kunar,” provincial director of information Najibullah Hassan Abdaal told AFP.
Ehsanullah, a resident of Shelton district who goes by one name as many Afghans do, said the assault was carried out by Pakistani military aircraft. He confirmed the death toll.
A similar pre-dawn assault was carried out in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the border, another Afghan government official said.
“Pakistani helicopters bombarded four villages near the Durand line in Khost province,” he said on condition of anonymity. “Only civilian houses were targeted and there were casualties,” he added, but did not offer more details.
An Afghan tribal elder from Khost, Gul Markhan, confirmed the incident in Khost.
Hundreds of civilians of Khost poured into the streets chanting anti-Pakistan slogans later on Saturday, Afghan media reports said.
Pakistani military officials were not immediately available for comment, and Taliban government spokesmen in Kabul declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
The Afghan foreign ministry said Saturday it had summoned the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul to protest the attacks.
“Such military violations including in Khost and Kunar should be prevented as ill-wishers and groups with vested interests will exploit these incidents,” Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told the Pakistani envoy, according to a ministry statement.
Border areas between the two countries have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban and the TTP are separate groups in both countries, but share a common ideology and draw from people who live on either side of the border.
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the TTP has become emboldened and launched regular attacks against Pakistani forces.
In February, six Pakistan soldiers were killed in firing by the TTP from Afghanistan. Thousands of people usually cross the border daily, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan, and people visiting relatives.