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18 Mar, 2024 19:58

Taliban accuses Pakistan of bombing civilians

At least eight people were reportedly killed as the Afghan militants traded cross-border fire with the Pakistani military
Taliban accuses Pakistan of bombing civilians

Afghanistan’s Taliban government accused Pakistan of killing eight civilians in an air raid on Monday. The Islamist group responded by opening fire on Pakistani targets, allegedly wounding seven people.

Pakistani jets “bombarded the homes of civilians” in the early hours of Monday morning, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. Mujahid said that the bombing killed eight people in the provinces of Paktika and Khost, both of which border Pakistan.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not comment on the alleged civilian casualties but said that the Pakistan Air Force had launched “intelligence-based anti-terrorist operations” against Taliban-sponsored terrorist groups operating in the two provinces. These groups include the Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which Islamabad says have used Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks on Pakistani soil.

The Taliban denies sheltering the TTP. While Hafiz Gul Bahadur once led a Taliban faction in Pakistan, his current relationship with Kabul is unclear.

The most recent of these attacks was on Saturday, when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck into a military checkpoint in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A splinter group of the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed seven Pakistani soldiers.

Mujahid said that Taliban fighters responded to Monday’s airstrikes by targeting Pakistani military outposts with heavy weapons. Pakistani officials told Al Jazeera that three soldiers and four civilians were wounded by mortar fire.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which has a long experience of freedom struggle against the superpowers of the world, does not allow anyone to invade its territory,” the Taliban spokesman stated.

Although an American ally, Pakistan provided military and financial aid to the Taliban before and during the US invasion of Afghanistan. That relationship has since soured, with Pakistan fencing up its side of the Afghan border and deporting hundreds of thousands of Afghans late last year. Tit-for-tat killings have become commonplace along the frontier since 2022, with the Pakistani government accusing the Taliban of sheltering terrorists and Kabul accusing Islamabad of violating Afghan sovereignty.

Not a single country officially recognizes the Taliban government, which took power in Kabul in 2021 during the final stage of the withdrawal of US troops. The UN does not recognize the group’s authority over Afghanistan, and the Taliban has boycotted power-sharing talks in Qatar.

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