Khost, April 17 (AFP) – The Taliban authorities warned Pakistan on Saturday after five children and a woman were killed in Afghanistan in alleged rocket attacks by the Pakistani military in a pre-dawn assault along the border.
Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban seized power last year, with Islamabad claiming militant groups were carrying out attacks from Afghan soil.
The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants, but are also infuriated by a fence Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre (1,600-mile) border known as the Durand line, which was drawn up in colonial times.
“Five children and a woman were killed and a man wounded in Pakistani rocket attacks in Shelton district of Kunar,” provincial director of information Najibullah Hassan Abdaal told AFP referring to the eastern province of Kunar bordering Pakistan.
Ehsanullah, a resident of Shelton district who goes by one name as many Afghans do, said the assault was carried out by Pakistani military aircraft.
A similar pre-dawn assault was carried out in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the border, another Afghan government official said.
“Pakistani helicopters bombarded four villages near the Durand line in Khost province,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“Only civilian houses were targeted and there were casualties,” he added, but did not offer more details.
Afghanistan’s Taliban government warned Islamabad after the attacks.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombardment and attack that has taken place from the Pakistan side on the soil of Afghanistan,” government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in an audio message.
“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan…We are using all options to prevent repetitions (of such attacks) and calling for our sovereignty to be respected.
The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side. It will cause instability in the region.”
Pakistani military officials were not immediately available for comment.
Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi protested to Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul against what he said were “military violations” committed by Pakistan.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it was “deeply concerned” by civilian deaths caused by air strikes, and the mission was verifying the extent of losses.
TOLO News, Afghanistan’s leading private TV channel, showed footage of houses destroyed in the assault in Khost.
“All the targeted people were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the Taliban or the government,” Rasool Jan, a resident of Khost, told the channel.
“We don’t know who is our enemy and why we were targeted.”
Hundreds of civilians of Khost poured into the streets chanting anti-Pakistan slogans later on Saturday, photographs obtained by AFP showed.
Border areas between the two countries have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban and the TTP are separate groups in both countries, but share a common ideology and draw from people who live on either side of the border.
Thousands of people usually cross the border daily, including traders, Afghans seeking medical treatment in Pakistan, and people visiting relatives.
Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, the TTP has become emboldened and launched regular attacks against Pakistani forces.
In February, six Pakistan soldiers were killed in firing by the TTP from Afghanistan.
Last month the TTP announced it would launch an offensive against Pakistani security forces from the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The TTP are pressuring the Pakistani authorities to allow militants to return to their hometowns with impunity after foreign fighters were told by the Afghan Taliban to leave Afghanistan.