Pakistani, Afghan troops trade shots at border

Published May 14, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani and Afghan forces exchanged fire at their rugged border Sunday in their most serious skirmish in years. Pakistan claimed it killed five Afghan soldiers, but Afghanistan said two Afghan civilians were killed.

Tension has been running high between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both key U.S. allies, over controlling their 1, 510-mile shared border and stemming the flow of Taliban and al-Qaida militants that stage cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad accused the Afghan army of firing first at Pakistani border posts: "This was unprovoked and without any reason." A Pakistan military statement said its troops returned fire and five Afghan soldiers were killed.

On the Afghan side, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi accused Pakistani forces of crossing more than a mile into Afghanistan's Paktia province. "Border police tried to stop them, and the Pakistani army started firing heavy weapons toward the Afghan forces, " he said.

Two students were killed, he said.

Paktia Gov. Rahmatullah Rahmat said the Afghan forces fired in self-defense after the Pakistani soldiers launched artillery rounds and troops on foot attacked a border security post.