Monday, 03 August, 2020

Pakistan artillery kills 15 civilians in Afghanistan after clashes at closed border

Shooting At Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Kills Three, Injures 17 Three killed as troops open fire at rally in Pakistan: Activists
Deanna Wagner | 01 August, 2020, 13:13

Additional troops of the Frontier Corps and Levies were also summoned to quell the protest. In the ensuing clash, four people were killed.

An official of the Chaman administration, Zakaullah Durrani, told Reuters that the situation on the border remained tense.

The protesters complained that the Pakistani officials refused to open the border.

"Pakistan is undertaking concerted efforts to ensure regulated movement of trade between the two countries, which are being challenged by elements opposed to such regulation", it noted.

The demonstrators mainly workers from the Pashtun minority trying to get to Afghanistan for work had rallied near the crossing, demanding authorities lift the months-long closure of the border-related to measures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The crossing, mostly shut during the COVID-19 pandemic, was briefly opened on Wednesday and had been due to reopen on Thursday to allow nationals of both countries to cross for Eid, which falls on Friday in Afghanistan and Saturday in Pakistan. He said on Twitter the security forces targeted innocent civilians at Chaman.

"Afghan forces opened unprovoked fire on innocent civilians gathered towards Pakistan's side of the worldwide border", read a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pakistani troops at the border, it said, were also fired upon from the Afghan posts.

"It is reiterated that Pakistan [forces] did not open fire first and responded in self-defence only", said the FO statement.

One policeman was among the dead, with the rest of the casualties civilians, he said.

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Footage taken by Pashtun activists and released on social media shows smoke at the border crossing and people in hospital beds in the town of Chaman.

"Some people enticed others and they tried to cross the post forcefully", the information minister said. "While we have maintained cordial friendly and brotherly relations with Afghanistan, we expect the same attitude from them too", he added.

Speaking at a news conference, the minister said that then there was reaction from Pakistani side as well. And Pakistani forces also reacted.

Border guards then opened fire on the protesters, which resulted in several casualties, eyewitnesses said.

The government on Friday said that the violent clashes which took place at the Chaman border a day earlier came after "unprovoked fire" by Afghan forces.

On the Afghan side meanwhile, Mr Baheer Ahmad, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, told AFP that 15 people had been killed and 80 others wounded "as a result of shelling and sporadic firing by the Pakistani border forces".

Noorzai said Afghan police reciprocated, firing at Pakistan forces' positions when they saw Afghan civilians were harmed. "To de-escalate the situation, the Pakistan side immediately activated both military and diplomatic channels and it was after hectic efforts that the firing was stopped from Afghan side", it said. The military clash stopped once the Afghan side stopped firing.

The FO said that despite the unfortunate incident, "Pakistan reiterates its honest readiness to further enhance fraternal relations with Afghanistan in the interest of peace and stability in the region".

Despite conciliatory signals from Pakistan, the Afghan side appeared aggressive, at least in its post-clash tone. He directed provision of small and heavy weapons to the Afghan forces deployed along the border.