ISLAMABAD (AP) — Militants in Afghanistan fired heavy weapons across the border at a Pakistani military outpost overnight, killing three personnel, the army said on Saturday, in the latest violence to rock the unstable region.
A firefight ensued with the militants firing towards the army post in Pakistan’s rugged North Waziristan region, and several were killed, the statement said. There was no immediate way to independently confirm the details of the attack.
It comes as Afghanistan reels from a series of explosions in recent days, including the bombing of a mosque in the country’s northern Kunduz province on Friday that killed 33 people, including several students from a neighboring religious school or madrasa.
This includes an attack Thursday on the Abdul Rahim Shaheed school in Kabul that killed seven children. It reopened on Saturday, with children remembering fallen classmates with roses.
The stark increase in attacks in Afghanistan – as well as in neighboring Pakistan – underscores the growing security challenge facing the Afghan Taliban leaders, who seized power last August in the final days of a chaotic U.S. troop withdrawal and of NATO ending their 20 year war. .
Although their harsh religiously motivated edicts, which seemed reminiscent of their late 1990s rule, drew sharp criticism, their seemingly authoritarian approach to security raised early expectations for improved security.
However, a vicious Islamic State affiliate known as the Islamic State in Khorasn Province, or IS-K – which has claimed responsibility for the recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan as well as a growing number in neighboring Pakistan – proves to be an insoluble challenge.
IS-K took responsibility for a series of attacks across Afghanistan on Thursday, most of which targeted the country’s Shia minority that the radical Sunni Muslim group calls heretics.
Yet IS-K, which is an enemy of Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership, is not the only militant organization in Afghanistan contributing to the security dilemma facing the religious government in Kabul.
The violent Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or (TTP) – which the United Nations estimates are around 10,000 strong in Afghanistan – have intensified their assault on Pakistan’s military outposts since its Afghan hideouts. Even the fledgling IS-K took responsibility for some of the attacks targeting Pakistani military personnel, damaging relations between the two countries.
Afghan Taliban leaders have promised that no militant group would use its soil as a base to attack another country, but Kabul has yet to arrest or hand over Afghanistan’s TTP leaders to Pakistan. Other militant groups also operating in Afghanistan include the Chinese militants of the East Turkestan Uyghur Movement, which demands independence for the northwest from China, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
Some of the groups are loosely allied with IS-K, while others act more independently, but Pakistan’s military statement on Saturday warned Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to do more.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for activities against Pakistan and expects the Afghan government not to allow such activities to be conducted in the future,” the Pakistani military statement said. .
After seven of its soldiers were killed in an ambush earlier this month, Pakistan retaliated on April 16 with bombardments inside Afghanistan which residents of eastern Khost province say of Afghanistan, killed dozens of refugees. The United Nations Education Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that 20 children had been killed in the strikes in the Afghan border provinces of Khost and Kunar.
At Abdul Rahim Shaheed School, which was among IS-K’s targets in Thursday’s attacks, school principal Ghulam Haider Husseini presented roses to each student upon arrival.
He also gave the students a pen, saying “it is our pen that will bring a change in this situation.”
Separately, the Taliban closed the lucrative Islam Qala border crossing with Iran on Saturday after the two countries fell out over a road that Afghan Taliban leaders planned to build in the area, the report reported. official IRNA news agency.
Iranian media said the dispute had been handed over to the Iranian and Afghan interior ministries for resolution.
Iran and Afghanistan share three border crossings along their more than 900 kilometers (560 miles) border.