Afghan, Pakistani forces clash along border, killing three

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: Afghan and Pakistani forces clashed in an escalation of tensions between the neighbouring countries, killing at least three people and forcing the closure of the main border crossing, officials said Tuesday.

The fighting erupted along the Torkham border on Sunday night and continued erratically over the next two days, apparently after Afghan forces objected to the construction of a gate on the Pakistani side.

The conflict prompted bitter recriminations on both sides, with Islamabad and Kabul summoning each other's diplomats to lodge strong formal complaints.

Two Afghan policemen were killed and nine others wounded in gunfights since Sunday, said Mohammad Ayub Hussain Khil, border police chief in eastern Afghanistan.

"The firing continued till 7am (Tuesday). The border is now closed until the tension subsides," he told AFP.

A Pakistani military officer was also killed and 18 others, many of them civilians, were wounded, security officials in the northwestern city of Peshawar said.

The Pakistani military justified the construction of the gate at Torkham, saying "terrorists" were using the busy crossing point.

"In order to check movement of terrorists through Torkham, Pakistan is constructing a gate on (our) own side of the border as a necessity to check unwanted and illegal movement," the military said in a statement on Monday.

Torkham is one of the major crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where hundreds of trucks and thousands of people cross the border daily through the Khyber Pass.

The border was closed over similar clashes last month, but was reopened after an understanding was reached between the two countries. — AFP