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Pakistan: Afghan Forces Fire on Census Workers, Killing 9

Pakistan: Afghan Forces Fire on Census Workers, Killing 9

Friday, 05 May 2017 07:39 AM

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Backed by artillery, Afghan security forces fired across the border on Pakistani census workers and troops escorting them, killing nine civilians and wounding 42, including women and children, Pakistani officials said Friday.

The Pakistani government and military officials said the artillery rounds were unprovoked but Afghan provincial officials claimed the Pakistanis fired first, wounding two Afghan policemen.

Friday's cross-border incident in the border town of Chaman in Pakistan's southwest Baluchistan province was the latest escalation between the two neighbors who share a volatile and porous boundary.

Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the army shut the border crossing in response to the early morning attack, blocking all movement of people and supplies to its landlocked neighbor.

Residents in the area said Pakistani and Afghan security personnel exchanged fire using light and heavy weapons.

"So far, we have received nine bodies. These civilians were killed as a result of the Afghan shelling," said Akhtar Mohammad, a doctor at the state-run hospital in Chaman. He said some of the wounded were in critical condition.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement describing the Afghan firing as an "unfortunate." He urged Kabul to put an end to cross-border attacks, warning that they threaten efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Nafeez Zakaria said the census workers were on their side of the border when Afghan forces opened fire.

According to local residents, dozens of shells slammed into nearby villages as well as close to the regional headquarters of Pakistan's paramilitary forces. Several of the wounded said their homes were destroyed in the exchange.

Yet Zia Durrani, a spokesman for the police chief in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, blamed Pakistan for initiating the gunbattle. He accused Islamabad of using the census as a mask to conceal the crossing of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

In Islamabad, the foreign ministry said it had summoned Afghanistan's chargé d'affaires to complain about the firing.

Pakistan and Afghanistan routinely accuse each other of providing sanctuaries to their enemy insurgents — something both sides deny. Despite several high-level visits by Pakistani intelligence and security officials to Afghanistan in recent weeks, relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate.

Gen. Ghafoor, meanwhile, accused Afghan forces of creating obstacles for census workers in villages divided by the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He did not elaborate on what those obstacles entailed.

Pakistan shares a 2,200-kilometer- (1,375 mile-) long porous border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan currently hosts 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees and another 1 million unregistered. They routinely get caught in the middle when tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan escalate.

Pakistan started conducting a census in mid-March, with censor-takers going door-to-door to collect information. It's the country's first nationwide census since 1998.

Ahmed reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

   
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Backed by artillery, Afghan security forces fired across the border on Pakistani census workers and troops escorting them, killing nine civilians and wounding 42, including women and children, Pakistani officials said Friday.The Pakistani government and military officials...
AS,Pakistan,Afghanistan
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2017-39-05
Friday, 05 May 2017 07:39 AM
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