A day after Kabul’s warning to Pakistan, more cross-border shelling reported

KABUL — Scores of fresh artillery rounds fired from Pakistan hit parts of eastern Afghanistan on Sunday night and Monday, a local official said, a day after Kabul warned Islamabad that any further cross-border shelling could significantly damage ties between the two historically uneasy neighbors.

There were no casualties from the overnight barrage, which mostly hit the Dangam district of eastern Konar province. Earlier in the weekend, four civilians were killed in shelling there, said Wasifullah Wasifi, a spokesman for Konar’s governor.

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In western Afghanistan on Sunday, a gunman wearing the uniform of the Afghan security forces shot and killed three civilian contractors — two Americans and a British citizen — working with the U.S.-led NATO coalition, the Associated Press reported. Five coalition troops were killed by roadside bombs over the weekend in other parts of the country.

Konar police Chief Ewaz Mohammad Naziri said 1,960 shells, mostly artillery rounds, have hit various districts of the province in recent months. Pakistan denies that accusation. The shelling comes days after Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to discuss joint efforts to persuade Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to join peace talks and end the cross-border shelling.

On Sunday, the deputy Afghan foreign minister, Jawed Ludin, met with Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul and issued a warning. “Any continuation of such reported shelling against Afghan villages could have a significant negative impact on bilateral relations,” Ludin told Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, the Foreign Ministry reported.

The two sides agreed to hold a senior-level meeting of military officials soon to discuss the shelling and improve military coordination along the border region.

The shelling also was the focal point of a debate in the Afghan parliament Sunday, with some lawmakers calling Karzai’s U.S.-
reliant government weak for failing to respond to the firing.

Afghan officials say the shelling has forced hundreds of families to leave their villages, mostly in rugged Konar province, an entry point for insurgents. The province lies near the porous, ill-defined and historically disputed frontier with Pakistan and was the target of even more extensive shelling from Pakistan last summer.

Afghan and U.S. and other NATO-led troops have come under fire by suspected insurgents in Konar in the past.

Adding to the tension between Islamabad and Kabul, Pakistan recently decided to revoke refu­gee status for nearly 3 million Afghans, meaning they will be deported by year’s end. Pakistan is also blocking the transfer of millions of school textbooks into Afghanistan.

Afghanistan had wanted its refugees to be able to return home more gradually, and an Afghan government spokeswoman said Karzai had received a personal pledge from Ashraf that the books would be allowed into his country.

 
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