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Taliban say 8 killed in Pakistani strikes on Afghanistan

March 18, 2024

The Taliban government says Pakistani airstrikes hit civilian homes, two days after insurgents killed seven Pakistani soldiers in a suicide bombing.

A Pakistani soldier (right) and a Taliban fighter stand guard at a border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
The situation in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan is tenseImage: AP Photo/dpa/picture alliance

A Taliban government spokesperson said on Monday that Pakistani airstrikes killed at least eight people, including three children, in border regions of Afghanistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said Pakistani aircraft struck civilian homes in Khost and Paktika provinces near the border with Pakistan at around 3:00 a.m. local time (2230 GMT). 

According to Mujahid, all eight people killed were women and children.

Pakistan's Foreign Office in Islamabad has also confirmed the strikes. They said that they targeted a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban and described it as "intelligence-based anti-terrorist operations in the border regions inside Afghanistan."

Exchange of fire

The airstrikes targeted multiple suspected hideouts of Pakistani Taliban inside Afghanistan, two Pakistan security officials told AP. The Pakistani Taliban is a separate militant group but allied with the Afghan Taliban.

Mujahid condemned the airstrikes and warned that such a "violation of Afghanistan's sovereignty" would bring "bad consequences" beyond its neighbor's control.

In a separate statement, the Taliban's Defense Ministry said its security forces had targeted Pakistani troops on the border with heavy weapons later Monday in response to the airstrikes.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported, citing Pakistani officials, that  Afghan Taliban's shots wounded four people and that some villagers in the northwestern Kurram district were moving to safer areas. 

The officials added that Pakistan fired back, according to the AP report. 

This is the latest escalation as tensions between Islamabad and Kabul simmer.

Pakistan president promised retaliation

Monday's escalation came two days after a suicide bombing targeted a Pakistan army post near the Afghan border.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber had rammed a truck filled with explosives into a military checkpoint in northwest Pakistan, killing seven soldiers.

During the funeral of the soldiers, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari promised a strong response.

"The blood of our martyred soldiers will not go in vain," Zardari said.

Saturday's suicide attack was claimed by the Jaish-e-Fursan-e-Muhammad group, though security officials in Pakistan believe that the organization largely consists of members from the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.

Pakistani military chief carry the coffin of a killed soldier at the funeral on March 17, after an attack
The early morning strikes come two days after insurgents killed seven soldiers in a suicide bombing targeting a Pakistan army post near Afghan borderImage: Inter-Services Public Relations/REUTERS

'Pakistan shouldn't blame Afghanistan'

Both neighbors have been sparring over recent militant activity in Pakistan. Islamabad claims these attacks originated in Afghan territory, a claim that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has denied.

"Pakistan shouldn't blame Afghanistan for the lack of control, incompetence and problems in its own territory," Mujahid said in the Taliban statement.

A Pakistani official in the border regions said in light of recent developments, "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."

Military maintains tight hold on Pakistan ahead of elections

ss/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)