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Friday, May 26, 2017

Nine Pakistani census takers killed near Afghan border

(May 6) Pakistani security officials claim that at least nine people have been killed and 33 wounded when they came under fire from Afghan forces. Those attacked were conducting a census near the Afghan border. Casualty accounts vary.

The attack Friday was near the Chaman border crossing into Pakistan's Balochistan province. The attack prompted security forces to ask people on the border to evacuate. The incident resulted in the Chaman border crossing being closed. Pakistani military spokesperson, Asif Ghafoor, said that firing was still going on. Chaman is one of only two main border crossings from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Ghafoor added: "Since April 30, Afghan Border Police had been creating hurdles in conduct of census in divided villages of Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir in Chaman area, on Pakistani side of the border."
Ghurzang Afridi, an Afghan spokesperson claimed that the Pakistani census team had been working on the Afghan side of the border. Pakistan is in the second phase of its first door-to-door census in 19 years. There are more than 100,000 enumerators plus double that number of troops taking part in the census.. There has been political debate as to how the census may change electoral constituencies. The 2,500 kilometer-long border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is largely unpoliced and passes through much mountainous terrain.
Pakistan has recently tried to put fences and border posts along the border in an attempt to curtail the movement of Taliban fighters into Pakistan. However Afghans have resisted the move and dispute the location of the border. Earlier, in February Pakistan closed off all border crossings with Pakistan after more than 100 were killed in a wave of attacks. AL Jazeera reported:"Pakistan's decision to close two border crossings with Afghanistan following a wave of deadly attacks has forced cross-border trade to grind to a halt.Pakistan closed the Torkham and Chaman borders after Thursday's suicide attack at a sufi shrine in the southern Sindh province which killed at least 88 people.The attack at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan was the worst attack on Pakistan soil since 2014 and the latest in a wave of violence last week that claimed more than 100 lives.The closing caused chaos at the border as many trucks loaded with perishable goods were stopped.There were frequent clashed between the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani military forces in several districts. In March 20, Nawaz Sharif; Pakistani PM ordered the crossing to be reopened. Since the census began in March, some teams have been attacked by Pakistani Taliban fighters.
Residents in the area where the attack took place said that Pakistani and Afghan forces used both light and heavy weapons in an exchange of fire. Akhgar Mohammad a doctor at the state-run hospital in CHaman said “So far, we have received nine bodies. These civilians were killed as a result of the Afghan shelling.” He reported at least 42 wounded on the Pakistani side alone including women and children. Some of the wounded he said were in critical condition.
Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif in a statement called the Afghan firing "unfortunate" and he urged Afghanistan to end cross-border attacks that threatened the peace between the two countries. Nafeez Zakaria Pakistani foreign minister claimed that the census workers were on the Pakistani side when attacked, General Abdul Raziq, police chief in Kandahar province said that the census was being used to conceal crossing of militants from Pakistan to Afghanistan. He claimed that 4 Afghan policemen and 2 civilians were killed and 37 wounded by fire from Pakistan forces. Raziq claimed: “Pakistani forces were trying to infiltrate Afghan territory but Afghan forces stopped them; that’s when the fight started,”

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