Pakistan conducts airstrikes inside Afghanistan; 8 people killed

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Pakistan airstrikes inside Afghanistan

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Islamabad/Kabul: Pakistan on Monday carried out airstrikes inside Afghanistan that killed eight civilians, including three children, Afghan Taliban said, amidst a war of words between the two neighbours for a spate of recent militant attacks in restive Pakistani cities.

A senior Afghan interim government official on Monday confirmed that strikes in the Afghanistan provinces of Paktika and Khost along the Pakistan border have taken place. There was no immediate reaction from the Pakistani side.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson of the Afghan rulers, alleged in a statement that Pakistani aircraft had carried out the airstrikes, the Dawn newspaper reported from Kabul.

At “around 3 am, Pakistani aircraft bombarded civilian homes” in Khost and Paktika provinces near the border with Pakistan, said Afghan interim government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, claiming that all eight people killed were women and children.

Mujahid said that Pakistani planes had bombed the Laman area in Paktika’s Barmal district.

Alleging that “houses of common people were targeted”, he said three women and three children were killed in Paktika and a house collapsed while two women were killed in Khost, where a house was destroyed as well.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the attacks and describes these as non-serious actions and violation of Afghanistani territory," Mujahid said.

The spokesperson asked Pakistan to stop blaming Afghanistan for its problems and failure to control violent incidents.

"Such acts can lead to dire consequences which will not be in control of Pakistan," he warned.

The strikes come a day after President Asif Ali Zardari vowed retaliation following the killing of seven soldiers, including two officers, in a terrorist attack on a security forces’ post in North Waziristan.

Offering the funeral prayers of the two officers, Zardari on Sunday said that the blood of the martyrs would not go in vain and the country would avenge the deaths. The president said Pakistan would not hesitate to strike back if attacked by anyone at borders or inside its territory.

The Hafiz Gul Bahadar group had claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Security officials say that fighters of the Gul Bahadar group operate from the Afghan side of the border, mostly from Khost.

The Paktika province is located near Pakistan’s South Waziristan District while Khost is situated near North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s Special Representative to Afghanistan Ambassador Asif Durrani on Saturday said that an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 militants from the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have taken shelter in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“If we include their families, then the number goes up to 70,000,” Durrani said.

Reacting to Durrani's charge, Afghanistan has dismissed his statement, saying that Afghan soil is not allowed to be used against other countries, including Pakistan.

"We reject the presence of any ... foreign groups in Afghanistan and they are not allowed to operate on Afghan soil. In this regard, we have made our utmost effort and continue to do so. But one thing we must accept is that Afghanistan shares a very long border area with Pakistan, and there are places with rugged terrain including mountains and forests, and places that might be out of our control," Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted as saying by Tolo News on Sunday.

Durrani, who spoke at a think-tank event in Islamabad last week, said Pakistan’s peace talks with the banned TTP failed in the past because the militant group was neither ready to surrender nor swear allegiance to the Constitution of Pakistan.

Durrani said Pakistan had told the interim government in Kabul that the latter needed to make TTP surrender and disarm the group and detain its leadership. He clarified that “TTP is the redline for Pakistan”.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban and is also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007.

The TTP's main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan. Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan Taliban after coming to power in Kabul in 2022 would stop the use of their soil against Pakistan by expelling the TTP operatives. However, Islamabad says Kabul has refused to rein in the TTP.

Meanwhile, cross-border clashes were also reported at Kurram District’s Parachinar.

Malik Nazeer, a resident of the border area of Borki, told the Dawn newspaper that people on both sides of the border have started evacuating the area.