(BANGLADESH) ISLAMABAD, Jan 4: Tension flared on the hazily-defined border between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the two sides exchanged artillery and machinegun fire, military officials said Tuesday, Reports AFP.
The Pakistani army and Afghan militia forces offered conflicting reasons for the heavy weapons clash on Monday afternoon in the inhospitable North Waziristan tribal zone.
Neither side officially reported any casualties, although Pakistani tribesmen said the salvos may have caused a dozen casualties across the border in Afghanistan.
The duel came a day after mortar rounds fired from the Afghan side of the border killed a Pakistani soldier and wounded three others in the same mountainous area.
Parts of the border between the two countries, known as the Durand Line after a treaty signed between the Afghan king and British India in 1893, remain disputed by Kabul and the issue has been the source of continued friction.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said his troops responded with artillery rounds after the Saidgai area of North Waziristan came under “targeted fire from the other side with long-range machine guns.”
“This was a totally unprovoked and uncalled for attack. They had to be sent a message that we will not tolerate this,” he added.
However, the border security commander in Afghanistan”s southeastern Khost province, Mohammed Ayub, told AFP that the Pakistanis started it.
“Pakistani militia or army wanted to cross the border and enter Afghanistan so the local Afghan militia forces attacked the Pakistani militia. There were no reports of casualties,” he said.
Private militia led by local warlords are still responsible for maintaining security in much of Afghanistan on behalf of US forces and the central government in Kabul.
“In many parts of Khost, Pakistani security forces cross the border and set up check posts on Afghan soil. The main problem is that the Pakistanis do not respect international rules,” Ayub added.
In 2003 the United States stepped in to defuse another border row when Afghan tribesmen claimed Pakistani troops had set up anti-militant checkpoints deep inside their territory. A mob later attacked Pakistan”s mission in Kabul.
The rugged frontier is regarded by the United States as a front line in its “war on terror” and thousands of Pakistani and US troops are hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda fugitives on the respective sides of the border.