Several Pakistani troops die on border


Islamabad : At least 18 people are reported to have been killed in clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Ten of the dead were reported to be Pakistani troops killed by an apparent missile strike by US or Nato-led forces, launched from Afghanistan. Eight Taleban militants were also killed in the fighting, a Taleban spokesman said. None of the Pakistani, Afghan or US militaries, or Nato, have yet officially commented on the incident.

Support TwoCircles

The soldiers’ deaths are reported to have occurred at a border post in the Mohmand region, one of Pakistan’s tribal areas, opposite Afghanistan’s Kunar province, late yesterday. The BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says army helicopters carrying bodies have landed in the north-western city of Peshawar after clashes and apparent air-strikes along the border, but it is still not clear exactly what happened. One security official says pro-Taleban militants launched an attack into Afghanistan, and Pakistani soldiers in a border post were killed in the counter-strike by Nato-led forces.

Other reports say the fighting broke out after Afghan troops tried to set up a mountain top post in territory claimed by Pakistan – the Pakistani Taleban claim to have then attacked these Afghan forces, prompting Nato to respond with air strikes. Taleban fighters have a strong presence in the border areas of the tribal district and local administrators have little power there, although security forces keep a presence on the border posts.

Disputes occasionally flare up over the long and porous border, which the Afghan government has never recognized. These tensions have been aggravated by the Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan. Afghan and US-led forces accuse Islamabad of failing to stop infiltration by Taleban fighters who take refuge in Pakistan’s tribal belt along the frontier, and are worried that the government’s recent peace talks with militants there will only give the Taleban more room for manoeuvre. Pakistan says Nato and Afghan troops are not doing enough to monitor their side of the border, and that US air strikes that target suspected militants in the tribal areas only inflame the situation.

In a separate incident, in a different region, four civilians were killed in an operation by US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan, the coalition said. Three women and a child died as troops targeted militants in Paktika province, a US military spokeswoman said, describing the deaths as tragic.