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Afghanistan: Five Civilians Reported Killed In Cross-Border Attacks From Pakistan

Afghan officials and the international coalition have reported four cross-border attacks on June 21 in which five civilians were killed. On several occasions, NATO-led forces returned fire on positions inside Pakistan.

A woman and three children were reported killed late on June 21 when rockets launched inside Pakistani territory landed in the eastern Afghan town of Khost.

Provincial governor spokesman Khaber Pashtoun told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that seven more civilians were wounded in the attack, which he said was targeting a NATO air base.

"Some rockets were fired in Kundi area, where coalition forces have a base. Four members of the same family were martyred and seven more wounded. Among the injured two are in serious condition. [The rockets] were fired from the other side of the Duran Line [border]," Pashtoun said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the strike, saying all eight rockets that were fired hit the NATO base. Pashtoun said, however, that none of the rockets hit their target, and that alliance forces returned fire.

Also on June 21, the provincial governor of the northeastern province of Kunar, Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, said a rocket fired from Pakistan hit a hospital. He said a man was killed and two other civilians wounded.

Meanwhile, NATO said three rockets fired from Pakistan landed near a NATO base in the eastern province of Paktika. Three more landed in an Afghan army compound in the province.

Provincial governor Akram Khpalwak confirmed the attack in an interview to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

No casualties were reported in the two strikes in Paktika, but the alliance forces returned fire "in self-defense." Khpalwak said such exchanges of fire across the Afghan-Pakistani border occur on a regular basis.

“In reaction, we also attacked the other side of the Durand line using heavy artillery in order to destroy their hideouts and places they are conducting attacks from, in some cases we use the air force too,” Khpalwak said.

Paktika Hotspot

Khpalwak said militants were particularly active in Pakistani tribal regions facing Afghanistan's Paktika Province, where he said the Pakistani army is allowing militants to use their facilities.

“The terrorists are very active in both North and South Waziristan. They have control over local governmental institutions and military bases there. Only terrorists hold military power in this region. It is clear that terrorists and Pakistani Taliban are conducting such attacks,” Khpalwak said. "Foreign extremists and local terrorists together have military bases, camps, and checkpoints there. This is a fact that no one can deny.”

Pakistani military officials say the militants attacking the NATO and Afghan positions were on Afghan territory, not inside Pakistan.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been strained, with Afghan officials complaining that Pakistani security forces have turned a blind eye to the Taliban's cross-border attacks.

Relations further deteriorated on June 10, when U.S. warplanes apparently bombed a Pakistani border post, killing 11 Pakistani troops.

And five days later, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Pakistani forces of supporting Taliban leaders in the tribal regions, and threatened to send Afghan troops across the border to kill extremist leaders.

with agency reports

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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