Officials in Pakistan said Thursday a fresh round of “indiscriminate” cross-border artillery shelling by Afghanistan’s Taliban forces on civilian targets had killed one person and wounded 15 others. Women and children were among the victims.
The attack sparked the intermittent exchange of fire near the Chaman border crossing but no details of losses on the Afghan side were immediately known.
Pakistani and Taliban officials accused the other of initiating the latest conflict, underscoring growing strains in otherwise friendly bilateral ties.
“Unfortunately, today there was another shooting by Pakistani soldiers in Spin Boldak … and it’s caused clashes,” the Taliban defense ministry said in a statement, naming the Afghan side of the Chaman crossing.
It stressed the need for solving problems through dialogue, warning that “negative actions and making excuses for war are not in the interest of any of the parties.”
On Sunday, Pakistan said that cross-border shelling and gunfire by Taliban forces targeted civilians just across the border region, killing seven Pakistanis and wounding around two dozen.
Taliban authorities confirmed the skirmishes had resulted in the death of a Taliban border guard and 10 civilians on their side.
However, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament Monday the skirmishes had killed up to nine Taliban combatants, noting that the Taliban government had “apologized” for the incident.
Pakistani officials said their forces were repairing a damaged part of the border fence when Taliban authorities interrupted them and eventually started shelling civilian settlements just across the frontier.
Last month, Pakistan closed the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing for more than a week after similar clashes, stranding hundreds of truck convoys transporting Afghan commercial goods on both sides.
Landlocked Afghanistan relies on the crossing, along with the northwestern Torkham border terminal, to access Pakistani overland routes and seaports for international trade.
Afghanistan disputes the nearly 2,600-kilometer former British-era demarcation with Pakistan, often sparking border tensions and limited military skirmishes.
Islamabad rejects Kabul’s objections and maintains Pakistan inherited the international border when it gained independence from Britain in 1947.
Thursday’s clashes coincide with a visit to Pakistan by General Michael Kurilla, the commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). Kurilla led his delegation in talks with Pakistani military chief General Asim Munir and his aides in Rawalpindi, where the army is headquartered, focusing on defense and security cooperation as well as regional matters.
Officials said the top American general was later flown to Torkham, where he was “apprised on counterterrorism and border management mechanisms in place” along the border.