Sunday , November 27 2022

Taliban issues warning over civilian killings by Pakistan rockets


By SJA Jafri + Bureau Report

KABUL/ ISLAMABAD: Taliban authorities warned Pakistan on Saturday after five children and a woman were killed in Afghanistan in alleged rocket attacks by the Pakistani forces in a pre-dawn assault along the border.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombardment and attack that has taken place from the Pakistan side on the soil of Afghanistan,” government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in an audio message.

“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan….We are using all options to prevent repetitions (of such attacks) and calling for our sovereignty to be respected,” he said.

“The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side. It will cause instability in the region.”

Pakistani military officials were not immediately available for comment.

Hundreds of civilians of Khost poured into the streets chanting anti-Pakistan slogans later on Saturday.

Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban seized power last year.

Islamabad claims militant groups are launching attacks on Pakistan from Afghan soil.

The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants, and is infuriated by construction of a fence Pakistan is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre (1,600-mile) border, known as the Durand line.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it was “deeply concerned” by civilian deaths caused by air strikes, and the mission was verifying the extent of casualties.

Kunar provincial director of information Najibullah Hassan Abdaal told media: “Five children and a woman were killed and a man wounded in Pakistani rocket attacks in Shelton district of Kunar.”

Ehsanullah, a resident of Shelton district who goes by one name as many Afghans do, said the assault was carried out by Pakistani military aircraft. He confirmed the death toll.

According to another Afghan government official, a similar pre-dawn assault was carried out in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the border.

“Pakistani helicopters bombarded four villages near the Durand line in Khost province,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“Only civilian houses were targeted and there were casualties,” he added, but did not offer more details.

TOLO News, Afghanistan’s leading private TV channel, showed footage of houses destroyed in the assault in Khost.

“All the targeted people were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the Taliban or the government,” Rasool Jan, a resident of Khost, told the channel.

“We don’t know our enemy and why we were targeted?”

The Afghan foreign ministry said it had summoned the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul to protest the attacks.

“Such military violations including in Khost and Kunar should be prevented as ill-wishers and groups with vested interests will exploit these incidents,” Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told the Pakistani envoy on Saturday, according to a ministry statement.

Border tensions

On Thursday, at least seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in an ambush by an armed group near the Afghan border.

According to a military statement, a Pakistani military convoy in a former stronghold of the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, near the Afghan border was ambushed, triggering an intense shoot-out in which seven soldiers and four members of the armed group were killed.

The statement said the ambush took place in the Isham area of North Waziristan, a district in the volatile northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Pakistan Army is determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices of our brave soldiers further strengthen our resolve,” the statement added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The incident comes as Pakistan’s military said on Thursday that 128 armed fighters have been killed in the region bordering Afghanistan since January.

The military acknowledged that nearly 100 soldiers have been killed in such attacks during the same period.

Paying tributes to the killed soldiers, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Islamabad would “continue fighting terrorism”.

North Waziristan, once dubbed the “heartland of militancy”, is one of the seven former semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan where the army has conducted a series of operations since 2014 to eliminate the Pakistan Taliban.

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