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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Kabul says 8 killed in Pakistan air strikes on eastern Afghanistan

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Pakistan aircraft "bombed civilian homes" in Khost and Paktika provinces near the border with Pakistan at around 3:00 am (2230 GMT Sunday).

Eight people, all women and children, were killed on Monday in “reckless” air strikes by the Pakistan military in the border regions of Afghanistan, the Taliban government’s spokesman said.

Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban government seized power in 2021, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from the neighbouring country.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Pakistan aircraft “bombed civilian homes” in Khost and Paktika provinces near the border with Pakistan at around 3:00 am (2230 GMT Sunday).

The Taliban government “strongly condemns these attacks and calls this reckless action a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty”, he said in the statement.

“Such incidents can have very bad consequences which will be out (of) Pakistan’s control,” he added.

A local government official in Pakistan’s border regions, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the military carried out the strikes in response to Afghan forces “targeting Pakistani territory”.

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“Announcements have been made in mosques to empty some areas in Kurram and North Waziristan as clashes between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue on and off at the border,” he added.

The strikes come after seven Pakistani troops were killed in an attack inside Pakistan territory on Saturday, for which the country’s President Asif Ali Zardari vowed retaliation.

“Pakistan has decided that whoever will enter our borders, homes or country and commit terror, we will respond to them strongly, regardless of who it is or from which country,” he said while attending the funeral prayers of the soldiers, which included a lieutenant colonel.

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– Growing militancy campaign –

Areas along the border have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as Pakistan’s home-grown Taliban group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Analysts say militants in the former tribal areas have become emboldened since the Taliban’s return to power, with TTP waging a growing campaign against security officials.

The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants.

In 2022, Taliban authorities said Pakistani military helicopters carried out strikes along the Afghan side of the border killing at least 47 people.

The TTP issued an official statement denying that Monday’s strikes targeted the group, saying their members operate from within Pakistan.

However, a TTP source who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media said the strikes in Paktika and Khost left at least nine people dead.

“A house has been attacked where two women and seven children have been killed and a child has been wounded” in the Barmal district in Paktika.

“A bombardment in the Pasa Mela area of Khost also has casualties.”