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Slain 'Talibanis' were civilians: Pak official

A Pakistani provincial minister said 17 people killed by Afghan forces were actually civilians and not Talibanis.
None | By Agence France-Presse, Chaman
PUBLISHED ON MAR 23, 2006 04:17 PM IST

Seventeen people killed by Afghan forces were Pakistani civilians travelling to a festival and not Taliban rebels as previously claimed, a Pakistani provincial minister said on Thursday.

Thousands of tribesmen watched over by paramilitary soldiers gathered in the Pakistani town of Chaman, which borders Afghanistan, for the funerals of some of those who were shot dead on Tuesday.

"All those who were killed were Pakistanis and not Taliban and they had gone to Afghanistan to celebrate the Afghan new year," Baluchistan province health minister Hafiz Ahmadullah told the agency.

Ahmadullah said that the Pakistanis were arrested in Kabul and were then brought to the frontier area and killed there in a "fake encounter".

Residents in the area have also said that the dead were local villagers.

Afghan officials said on Wednesday that security forces had shot dead 17 suspected Taliban militants who crossed the border from Pakistan near the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak.

They included two Taliban commanders named as Shin Noorzai and Mullah Atta Jan, while five militants fled back over the frontier, the Afghan officials said.

"We are in touch with the Afghan government" over the killings, Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told the agency.

When asked if Islamabad had lodged a protest she said that Pakistan was "trying to establish the facts".

Local officials said that around 11 bodies were being brought to Chaman for the funerals, although the exact number was not clear.

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul are already tense amid allegations that Pakistan is failing to crack down on Islamic militants operating from its territory.

Afghanistan says that Taliban rebels responsible for a rash of suicide bombings and other attacks are based in camps in Pakistan's restive tribal border areas.

Pakistan says it has around 80,000 troops along the border and President Pervez Musharraf earlier this month accused his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai of trying to shift blame and of being "oblivious" to events in his own country.

Local and international forces led by the United States ousted the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime in late 2001 after they refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks.

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