ISLAMABAD: Tensions flared up between Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday as militants crossing the Afghan border killed six personnel of Pakistani security forces on Sunday.
In a subdued statement, the Foreign Office said it had summoned the Afghan deputy head of mission, and a strong protest was lodged with him on the intrusion of militants in the Pakistani territory from the Afghan side. The statement did not even name the Afghan deputy head of mission or the summoning official.
“Last night, about 100 militants from across the border had entered Dir and clashed with a Pakistani security forces patrolling party. In the exchange of fire, 11 militants were killed while six security forces personnel embraced Shahadat and 11 soldiers are missing,” said the spokesman.
The spokesman did not mention whether the Pakistani Taliban or Afghan Taliban carried out the attacks. Earlier, the prime minister and his adviser on interior also condemned the attack. The adviser contacted the Afghan interior minister to register his complaint over the incident and “blamed the Afghan authorities for not preventing the cross-border movement of militants into Pakistan.”
It was expected that the Pakistani prime minister would visit Kabul shortly, but the latest attack puts a question mark on that bilateral visit.
According to IRNA news agency, the spokesman for Pakistani Taliban, Sirajuddin, in phone calls to the media in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that 17 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
Sirajuddin said that Maulana Fazlullah, the former chief of Taliban in Swat Valley, is now leading his fighters in the border region of Afghanistan and also issues instructions to their remnants in Swat and nearby areas.
The team of security forces was patrolling the Pak-Afghan border when the militants attacked it after crossing the border, local reports said. The sources said the team was sent to gather information on militants’ presence in the area.
Pakistan insists that several top Pakistani Taliban leaders, including Fazlullah, Maulvi Faqir of Bajaur Agency and Abdul Wali from Mohmand Agency, have established bases in Afghanistan and regularly launch attacks on Pakistani border posts from across the border.
Reuters adds: Pakistan lodged a protest with Nato and Afghan forces on Monday, accusing them of failing to act against militant safe havens in Afghanistan, a military official said.
The move is likely to intensify tensions between troubled allies Islamabad and Washington, currently involved in difficult talks to repair ties. More than 100 militants based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province entered Pakistan and attacked a military patrol on Sunday, the military official said. Fourteen militants and six soldiers were killed in the skirmish. Militants beheaded seven Pakistani soldiers after the clash and four were still missing, he added.
The Malakand faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility, and threatened more attacks. “Our fight will continue until the establishment of Shariah law in Pakistan ... We will fight whoever tries to stand in our way,” Sirajuddin Ahmad, the faction’s spokesman, told Reuters. Ahmad claimed the group had killed 17 Pakistani soldiers.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said it was aware of the report, but had no information.Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Kumar province, said the militants were based in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. “We don’t have any information about militants crossing the border from Afghanistan to attack troops in Pakistan,” he told Reuters.Pakistan wants Afghan and Nato forces to act against the Afghanistan-based militant groups that cross the border to attack Pakistani forces and civilians.