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Pakistan protests against 'unprovoked' Afghan fire

03 May, 2013

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KARACHI: Pakistan summoned the most senior Afghan diplomat in the country Thursday to protest against cross-border fire, which officials say wounded two Pakistani soldiers and killed an Afghan guard.

It was the latest clash to underline strained ties between the fractious neighbours, which have worsened in repeated months despite Western efforts to get them to work more closely on peace efforts in Afghanistan.

The two nations accused each other of starting the firing on the border, which is a crucial battleground in the fight against Taliban militants who operate in both countries.

The Afghan charge d'affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry to protest against "unprovoked firing", Islamabad said in a statement.

"This is not the first time that the heavy fire was initiated from the Afghan side, causing heavy injury and damage to the Pakistani structures," the foreign ministry said, adding that such incidents were creating "avoidable tension".

An Afghan official who declined to be named said in Kabul that one Afghan police guard was killed in several hours of artillery exchanges.

"Afghan border police posts came under fire at around 9:00 pm (1630 GMT) last night. Our border police returned fire," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AFP.

"The exchange lasted until 2:00 am," he said, adding no further details were available as the incident was being investigated.

The renewed friction focuses on a gate partially constructed by Pakistan at a site that Afghan officials say is inside Afghanistan.

"The gate which was built inside Afghan territory was destroyed in last night's clash, and Afghan security forces are now in control of the area," said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the government in Nangarhar province.

Witnesses said hundreds turned out at the funeral of the policeman, chanting anti-Pakistan slogans and hailing him as a national hero of Afghanistan.

"It was continuous fire on one of our checkposts that forced our troops to retaliate," a senior Pakistan security official told AFP.

Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's 1996-2001 Taliban regime, is seen by the West as having a central role in negotiating a political settlement with Taliban insurgents who shelter in Pakistan's border districts.

But ties have worsened this year with the Afghan government accusing Pakistan of dropping its support for the peace process.

End.

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