Nine civilians martyred, 42 injured in firing by Afghan forces at Chaman border

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CHAMAN: At least nine civilians were martyred and 42 injured early Friday when Afghan border forces opened fire on Frontier Corps Balochistan soldiers deployed for security of census team near the Chaman border.

Earlier, the Inter-Services Public Relations statement said one civilian was martyred and at least 18 injured in the cross-border firing and shelling. The injured included four FC soldiers who were on security duty of the population census team.

But Deputy Medical Superintendent at Civil Hospital Dr Akhtar later confirmed nine civilians had died and 42 had been injured as a result of the firing and shelling.

Deputy Commissioner Qaiser Khan earlier said a woman was killed when a mortar shell fell on her house.

He also said all schools in the locale had been closed for an indefinite period. He advised residents to avoid going to the rooftops of their houses, as the firing was still ongoing.

The unprovoked firing by Afghan forces, with both light and heavy arms, began at 4 AM, security officials said. The firing was still continuing at the time of filing this report, according to the ISPR.

Pakistani security forces effectively responded to the firing and shelling from the Afghan side, security personnel said.

The injured also include children.

Large contingents of FC and Levies reached the area as soon as the vicinity came under heavy fire from across the border.

The Pakistan military’s media wing said the Afghan Border Police have been creating hurdles since 30th April in the conduct of census in the divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Charnan area on the Pakistani side of the border.

“This was done despite the fact that Afghan authorities had been informed well in advance and coordination was carried out through diplomatic and military channels for conduct of census,” the ISPR said.

Chaman shares a border with the Afghan province of Kandahar and is home to a busy international border crossing between the two countries. The Chaman border crossing was closed following the incident.

Serious concerns over firing by Afghan forces: FO

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria voiced concerns over the firing by Afghan forces at Chaman border, which martyred nine civilians and injured over 40 earlier today.

In his weekly briefing, Zakaria said the FO has serious concerns over the incident. The census team was performing its duty when the firing started, he said.

The spokesperson said that Afghanistan had been informed of the census activity before, and the census was being conducted in Pakistan’s territory.

Pakistan has the right to retaliate, he said, adding that a negative role by India was creating issues in Afghanistan.

Hospitals alerted

The injured were taken to the district hospital, where two critically injured persons were referred to Quetta, where emergency has been imposed at hospitals.

The doctors and paramedics at Bolan Medical Complex have been alerted, while additional staff was called for Quetta Civil Hospital.

However, there was a lack of ambulances in Chaman, where casualties are likely to increase in the villages situated near the border.

Communication disrupted

Moreover, the important routes in the areas have been closed, while the vehicles coming from the side of Quetta were stopped, said security officials.

The Quetta-Chaman road was blocked by security forces at various locations following the incident.

Even the 3G and 4G services were suspended in the area.

Census halted

The census process in two villages near the border, Killi Jahangir and Killi Luqman, has been halted for the time being.

As per the ISPR press release, the Afghan border police had been creating hurdles in the census process since April 30 in the villages near Chaman.

This was done despite the fact that Afghan authorities had been informed well in advance and coordination was carried out through diplomatic and military channels for the census, the statement read.

Friendship gate closed

The gate between both the countries on the Chaman border, Bab-e-Dosti was closed following firing from the Afghan border police.

Tensions between both the countries have resulted in the temporary closure of the gate in the past as well.

After the attack on the shrine in Sehwan, Sindh in February this year the border gate was closed. However, it was reopened and the move was welcomed by traders especially as the closure had caused losses to their businesses.

In June 2016, an army major was martyred and two Khasadar men wounded due to unprovoked firing by the Afghan border forces at Torkham border crossing.

The unprovoked fire had come at the time of construction of a gate inside Pakistani territory to check terrorists’ movement across the border.

The flare-ups at the border led to the imposition of curfew in Landikotal and Torkham areas, restricting all sorts of transportation across the border.

Nine civilians, including women and children, were also wounded in the incident.