9 killed, 45 injured as Afghan forces fire on Pak census team

KARACHI: Afghan border forces today opened fire on Pakistani security personnel guarding a census team in the border town of Chaman in restive Baluchistan province, killing nine people and injuring 45 others, Pakistan army said.

The Afghan border forces started shelling at Kali Luqman and Kali Jahangir area early this morning targeting security personnel guarding a census team in Chaman area, Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

Five children and three women were among those killed, while four Frontier Corps personnel are among the 45 injured.

The Pakistani army said the Afghan border guards’ opened fire despite the fact that Afghan authorities had been informed in advance about the census exercise in Pakistan.

“Since April 30, Afghan Border Police had been creating hurdles in [the] conduct of census in divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Chaman area, on Pakistani side of the border,” the military’s media wing said.

Additional contingents of the army and Frontier Corps have been dispatched to the Pak-Afghan border.

The Foreign Office summoned the Afghan charge d’affaires to lodge a protest against the cross-border attack.

The charge d’affaires was told that the “unprovoked firing” by Afghan forces had led to the loss of lives, disrupted the census in areas on the Pakistan side of the border and caused damage to properties,” a statement released by the FO said.

The Foreign Office asked the Afghan government to take measures to take action against those “responsible for [the] violation”.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Nafeez Zakaria said that the census team “was fulfilling its duties in the area and the exercise was taking place within the jurisdiction of Pakistan.”

He said that Pakistan has the right to retaliate after the exchange of fire, but said that Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan would continue.

“Dialogue is the only political means available to us to establish peace in Afghanistan,” Zakaria said.

The spokesman for the governor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province claimed that Pakistani officials had strayed on to the Afghan side of the border and were attempting to count people living there.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif who held an emergency meeting with Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan warned that Pakistan reserved the right for a strong retaliation and urged Afghanistan to stop the cross-border attacks.

In the wake of the attack, the government closed down the Chaman border and civilians living in the Killi Luqman, Killi Jahangir, Killa Abdullah and Badshah Adda Kahol areas near the border were moved to safer places.

It was the second time this year that the Chaman border crossing was sealed.

Pakistan had closed down its borders with Afghanistan at Chaman and Torkham in February following terrorist attacks blamed on militants who have taken sanctuary across the border.

The border points were opened after a month on the orders of the prime minister after millions of dollars were lost in trading and business between the two countries. (AGENCIES)


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