Fresh clashes on Pakistan-Afghanistan border kill two, wound several

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Quetta (Reuters) – Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani security forces have killed two people and wounded several in a border region of the two neighbours, officials said, the latest in a series of such skirmishes.

The forces started exchanging fire in a dispute over the setting up of a military check post in a southwestern border area that divides Chaman and Spin Boldak districts, three security officials told Reuters.

Both sides blamed each other for starting the clashes that later spread to several nearby villages.

“It is regrettable that the Pakistani security officials first opened the fire,” Afghan Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet.

Two civilians were killed and 22 wounded on Afghan side, a local Taliban spokesman Mohammad Asif Hakimi said. Five Taliban soldiers were also wounded, he said.

“Afghans made the first move and opened unprovoked fire on Pakistani troops when they asked Afghan soldiers to stop work on a post located on Pakistani side,” a Pakistani security official said.

Pakistani officials said several wounded included four security officials.

It is difficult to independently verify claims in the border region, which is off limits to journalists.

Pakistan’s army, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, has stepped up security operations along the Afghan border in recent weeks after a spate of militant attacks.

Islamist and separatist factions have killed at least 14 Pakistani soldiers in attacks over the past month, three of them carried out by fighters entering from Afghanistan.

The Taliban have denied Afghan territory was used to stage the attacks.

Despite such assurances, disputes linked to the border have been a bone of contention between the neighbours for decades.

The Taliban have attempted to block Pakistan’s plans to finish fencing the 2,600 km (1,615 mile) border that was drawn by British colonial rulers with no consideration for the Pashtun tribes it divided.

It has never been recognised by any Afghan government.