By AMIR SHAH and PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan border policeman was killed in what appeared to be an exchange of fire with Pakistani troops along the country's eastern border, an Afghan security official said Thursday.
Pakistani forces fired artillery rounds late Wednesday at Afghan border police in the Goshta district of eastern Nangarhar province, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi. In an ensuing five hour firefight, one border policeman was killed, he said.
But a Pakistani military official who confirmed the exchange of fire said it involved Afghan militants firing at his country's border forces.
Ties between the two neighbors have been severely strained in recent months, and the mountainous region where the latest shooting took place has seen acrimonious exchanges between the two sides over the demarcation of their border.
According to the Pakistani official, a group of militants from the Afghan side of the border attacked a Pakistani post in the Mohmand tribal region, sparking a gunbattle that continued for hours.
Four Pakistani security personnel were wounded in the clash, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with military policy. He said the Pakistanis were not aware of any militant casualties and the insurgents later fled, taking advantage of the darkness.
Afghan accusations that Pakistan is allegedly trying to torpedo efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban have also contributed to deteriorating relations. Both countries have also accused each other of providing shelter for insurgents fighting on the other side of the border.
Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai charged that Pakistan was setting up a border gate in the Goshta district without asking Kabul's permission. He ordered his ministries of foreign affairs, defense and interior to remove the gate and all installations around it.
However, it remains unclear how they would do that as Pakistan claims the facility is on its territory. But Afghanistan does not recognize the disputed Durand Line, the 19th century demarcation between present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan as its border. Pakistan accepts the line as the boundary between the two sides.
Also, Afghanistan has been deeply suspicious of the motives of a government in Islamabad that long backed the Taliban regime and has since seemed unable or unwilling to go after militant leaders taking refuge inside its borders. The killing of al-Qaida chief, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan only strengthened Afghan wariness of the neighboring country
In an effort to defuse tensions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought Karzai and Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani together in Brussels last month for security talks aimed at improving relations between the two nations ahead of next year's withdrawal of NATO combat forces from Afghanistan.
The meeting lasted about three hours but apparently did little to ease Afghanistan-Pakistan tensions as all sides try to lure the Taliban to peace negotiations.
Associated Press writer Anwarullah Khan in Khar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.