Pakistan-Afghan border

More gunfire at Pakistan border; Afghan guard Killed

Renewed clashes overnight at a Pakistan-Afghan border crossing killed an Afghan border guard and wounded five, an Afghan official said Wednesday, as Islamabad dispatched more troops and weapons to the volatile boundary amid an escalation in tension between the two neighbors.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have blamed one another for the latest escalation and as tensions run high, both Islamabad and Kabul issued statements urging for a peaceful resolution

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 allegedly disputed territory. More than 20 border guards from both sides have been wounded so far in the shootouts.

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 with Pakistan, appealed on Pakistan to stop shooting toward the Afghan side, adding that fighting “is not the solution.”

In Pakistan, two security officials confirmed the latest exchange of fire on Torkham but said the cease-fire is now holding. There was some damage on the Pakistani side, they said, without elaborating. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Torkham crossing remained closed Wednesday.

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 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.

Later Wednesday, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary called in Afghan Ambassador Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal to the foreign ministry to lodge a strong protest, demanding Kabul take immediate steps to end the “unprovoked firing,” a statement said.

Pakistani army spokesman Gen. Asim Bajwa said efforts were underway on the political, diplomatic and military level to halt the escalation. Afghanistan’s parliament also called for diplomatic solution to the conflict.

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.

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