Pak Affairs

Army denies firing rockets into eastern Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: Pakistan’s army has refuted Afghanistan’s President allegations that it fired hundreds of rockets into two eastern Afghan provinces over the past three weeks. DG Inter Service Public Relations Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Monday that no rounds have been intentionally fired into Afghanistan. He said it is possible that a few rounds may have accidentally fallen into Afghanistan when security forces targeted militants carrying out cross-border attacks into Pakistan.

President Hamid Karzai had accused Pakistan of firing 470 rockets into two eastern Afghan provinces over the past three weeks, a deadly rain of artillery that Afghan officials said killed 36 people, including 12 children. The attacks came in areas of Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, where NATO forces have withdrawn and where Pakistani Taliban moved in behind fleeing civilians, Afghan border officials said.

Karzai indicated Pakistani government forces are responsible for the bombardment, and “they should be stopped immediately.’’ The spokesman said there have been five major attacks on border posts in the last month by groups of up to 300 militants who crossed into the country from Afghanistan. He said 55 paramilitary soldiers and tribal police have been killed in the attacks and 80 others injured.

Karzai said he discussed the rocket barrage with the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zadari, during an anti-terrorism conference in Tehran on Saturday, the same day the Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman spoke of the attacks and warned that Afghanistan would defend itself.

“The government of Pakistan should understand that there will be a reaction for killing Afghan citizens,’’ said Azimi, the spokesman. Afghan security officials said NATO also fired into Pakistan on June 17. NATO and Pakistani military officials earlier denied any knowledge of such border fire from the Afghan side.

The Afghan president said he also discussed the border attack with the NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry during his regular national security council meeting yesterday. U.S. and Afghan officials have pressured Pakistan to end its security forces’ long-standing relationship with the Taliban movement, viewed as a tool for Pakistani influence over strategically placed Afghanistan.

NATO has recently withdrawn many of its combat troops from forward operating bases and combat outposts in Kunar and Nangarhar. Both provinces continue to be heavily contested by Taliban fighters. Azimi said the Afghan Defense Ministry “asks the president of Pakistan to stop the artillery firing and compensate the losses caused.’’ Violence has been on the rise across Afghanistan since the country’s Taliban launched a spring offensive and promised retaliation for the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a U.S. raid in Pakistan on May 2.-Online

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Mubashar Nizam

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