Afghans celebrate after border-crossing clash

  • Article by: ROD NORDLAND
  • New York Times
  • May 2, 2013 - 8:27 PM


– Afghan forces claimed they overran a Pakistani-held border crossing in a remote area Thursday — an event that provoked a spontaneous outpouring of nationalist sentiment in the capital, sending thousands of students into the streets, and sparking lively debate on social network sites.

More than 1,000 students turned out for the funeral of an Afghan border police officer who was the only confirmed victim of the clash. An ambulance pressed into service as a hearse to carry his body from Jalalabad to his home village in rural Nangarhar province was strewn with flowers, and mourners were celebratory in declaring a victory over Pakistan. Hundreds of miles away in Gardez city, Paktia province, the officer was hailed as a national hero by crowds of students who marched through the center of the city beating drums and chanting anti-Pakistani slogans.

A spokesman for the Afghan Border Police unit in eastern Nangarhar province said that troops took back five Afghan police posts that had been occupied by Pakistani forces in the Goshta district in fighting that began Wednesday night.

They also burned a border crossing post in the area that Pakistan had allegedly built without Afghan approval. The crossing was one of several that President Hamid Karzai had complained about last month.

The border police spokesman said there were unconfirmed reports that nine Pakistani militiamen were killed in the clash.

However, Pakistani government officials said only two of their security personnel were wounded in a cross-fire and there were no reports of border facilities changing hands. And an Afghan member of parliament from Goshta district, Friadon Momand, said his information was that the border crossing was still operating.

Whatever actually happened, the incident aroused an unusual degree of reaction especially among young Afghans, which contrasts sharply with their apathy over actions by their army and police in clashes with Afghan insurgents.

The border clash in Nangarhar province comes after months of complaints by Afghan authorities over cross-border shelling and control of their common border. In addition, Afghan political leaders, including Karzai, have greatly stepped up their anti-Pakistani rhetoric lately, blaming their neighbor for supporting insurgents and hindering peace talks.

The border clash came a day after the reopening of the major crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, at Torkhum on the Grand Trunk Road between Kabul and Peshawar. It had been closed for two days after a fistfight between border guards over the Pakistanis’ refusal to let an Afghan woman enter without a visa.

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