‘Pakistan air strikes’ kill at least 47 in Afghanistan, officials say

The death toll from air strikes in the Afghanistan provinces of Khost and Kunar carried out by the Pakistan military has risen to at least 47, officials said on Sunday.

Afghan authorities claim the pre-dawn air assault was carried out by Pakistani military helicopters.

Since the Taliban seized power last year, border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen, with the former claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from its neighbouring country.

It has urged Afghanistan to act against militants launching attacks on Pakistan.

The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants but have been angered by a fence Pakistan is erecting along the shared 2,700-kilometre border.

The air strikes hit residential houses in Khost and Kunar along the border, said Afghan officials who claimed Pakistani forces had fired rockets.

“Forty-one civilians, mainly women and children, were killed and 22 others were wounded in air strikes by Pakistani forces near the Durand line in Khost province,” Shabir Ahmad Osmani, director of information and culture in Khost told AFP.

Najibullah, an official with the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Khost, said the death toll in the province was 48.

“Twenty-four people were killed from one family itself,” he said.

Jamshid, a tribal leader from Khost, also confirmed that more than 40 people were killed.

“I went yesterday with several people to donate blood for treating the wounded in Khost strike,” Jamshid said.

Another government official in Khost on condition of anonymity said he saw “42 graves” of people killed and that a few people were missing.

“Faces and bodies of some were charred and beyond recognition,” said Abdul Wahab, a religious scholar from Khost who helped bury some victims.

Tolo News, Afghanistan’s leading private TV channel, continued to show gruesome footage of scattered blood and debris of damaged houses in the assault in Khost.

Officials on Saturday said five children and a woman had been killed in similar strikes in Kunar.

The Pakistani military has so far not offered any comment on the strikes but on Sunday the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad urged Taliban authorities in Kabul to rein in the militants.

“Pakistan requests the sovereign Government of Afghanistan to secure Pak-Afghan Border region and take stern actions against the individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan,” the ministry said.

It said seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in the North Waziristan district on Thursday by “terrorists operating from Afghanistan”.
Two groups with a shared ideology

Areas along the border have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, elements of banned terrorist groups in the border region, including TTP, have continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in the martyrdom of several Pakistani troops,” the ministry said.

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.

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.

TTP members are pressuring the Pakistani authorities to allow militants to return to their home towns with impunity after foreign fighters were told by the Afghan Taliban to leave Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government issued a warning to Pakistan after Saturday’s assault.

“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

“The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side.”

The air strikes triggered protests in Khost and some other provinces at the weekend.