Hours after shrine attack, Pakistan hits militant bases in Afghanistan; envoy summoned
There has been no official word on the strikes, which, if confirmed, would be the first such operation by the Pakistan Army.world Updated: Feb 18, 2017 21:51 IST
The Afghan government summoned Pakistan’s ambassador on Saturday, hours after Islamabad reportedly launched “strikes” on militant bases in the neighbouring country’s eastern provinces, increasing tension between the two sides.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry summoned ambassador Abrar Hussain in Kabul, where deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai sought an explanation but also conveyed his condolences for recent suicide attacks in Pakistan. In its protest, Afghanistan said at least two people were killed and two others wounded in the shelling. In response, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Nafees Zakarya told the media that Islamabad was gathering more information on this development and Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan has been contacted.
The Pakistan Army said it had information that terrorists from across the border were behind Thursday’s suicide bombing at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi shrine in southern Sindh that killed 88 people. Hours after the bombing, Pakistani security forces have launched a nationwide operation that, they say, has left more than 100 “terrorists” dead.
The army on Friday had summoned Afghan diplomats and handed them a list of 76 militants who, they say, were supporting terror activities in Pakistan. Immediately after the attack in Sindh, Pakistan claimed the attack was planned in militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan, in remarks that could renew hostility between Kabul and Islamabad.
Geo TV channel, quoting military sources, reported that strikes were launched on the militant bases on Afghan soil on Friday night. But there has been no official word on the strikes, which, if confirmed, would be the first such operation by the Pakistan Army.
The Pakistan army reportedly targeted a training camp of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — the banned terror group which had claimed responsibility for the February 13 suicide bombing in Lahore and another suicide attack on the headquarters of the Mohmand Agency’s political administration on February 15. Some reports said several militants, including the deputy commander of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Adil Bacha, were killed in the strikes.
Afghanistan has also protested the closure of the border from the Pakistan side on two crossings - Torkham and Chaman border. The army also said the Pak-Afghan border has been closed since Friday night due to security reasons.
“No cross-border or unauthorised entry will be allowed into Pakistan from Afghanistan,” read an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement issued on Friday, putting pressure on Afghanistan as trade had come to a halt.
According to the ISPR, a few hours before the attack was reported, army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had called Gen John Nicholson, commander of the US’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, to protest continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan perpetrated from Afghanistan, saying they were “testing” Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint.
Bajwa had told Nicholson that recent incidents of terrorism in Pakistan had been claimed by terrorist organisations whose leadership is hiding in Afghanistan, and asked him to play his role in “disconnecting this planning, direction, coordination and financial support”.