Deadly cross-border shelling by Afghan Taliban forces at a Pakistani border town on Sunday killed seven people, Pakistan’s military said, as relations continue to sour between the two neighboring countries.
The violence hitting Chaman in southwestern Pakistan follows a series of deadly incidents and attacks that have skyrocketed tensions between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. Chaman is the main border crossing for trade between the countries.
The crossing was reopened on Monday morning, authorities said.
The Pakistani army’s media wing initially said six died in Sunday’s shelling, but the death toll later rose to seven. Sixteen others were wounded, the army said, blaming the casualties on the “unprovoked and indiscriminate fire” of heavy weapons by Afghan forces on civilians.
In Afghanistan, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor, Ataullah Zaid, appeared to link the clashes between Pakistani and Taliban forces with the construction of new checkpoints on the Afghan side of the border.
He said one Taliban fighter was killed and 10 were wounded. Three civilians were also wounded, he added.
Pakistan’s army said troops responded to Afghan fire, but did not give further details. It said Pakistan has approached authorities in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to highlight the severity of the border incident.
Earlier, Akhtar Mohammad, a doctor with a government-run hospital in Chaman, told The Associated Press that live rounds wounded a total of 27 people who were brought to the hospital for treatment. He said seven were in critical condition.
A resident on Pakistan’s side of the border, Wali Mohammad, took his wounded cousin to the hospital in Chaman. He said there were a number of explosions followed by rapid gunfire. “We were in the street like any other day off, when suddenly, a big explosion was heard and debris hit many people, including one of my cousins,” said Mohammad.
Criticizing the Taliban, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted on Monday: “The Afghan Interim government should ensure that such incidents are not repeated.”
A deadly shooting in November shuttered the border at Chaman for eight days, causing heavy commercial losses and leaving thousands of people stranded on both sides.
Later last month, Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul came under gunfire. Pakistani officials called the incident an attack on its envoy there and blamed Taliban officials for the security breach. Islamabad also has said Afghanistan’s rulers are sheltering militants who carry out deadly attacks on its soil.