Pakistani Planes Allegedly Hit Militant Hideouts in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan carried out cross-border aerial strikes against suspected militant hideouts in Afghanistan early Monday, killing several people, according to officials.

A Pakistani security official, speaking anonymously to VOA because he was not authorized to interact with the media, confirmed the pre-dawn strikes, saying they targeted commanders linked to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, a globally designated terrorist organization operating out of the neighboring country.

The military action apparently came in retaliation to Saturday’s high-profile TTP raid against a Pakistani military base in the volatile North Waziristan border district that killed seven soldiers, including two officers.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government confirmed in a statement that Pakistani planes had bombed multiple locations in its southeastern Paktika and Khost provinces but said the attack resulted in the deaths of eight civilians, including women and children. It was not possible to ascertain the identities of the slain people from independent sources.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns these attacks and calls this reckless action a violation of Afghanistan’s territory,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. He used the official title of his government, which has yet to be recognized internationally.

Mujahid denied again that the Taliban allowed Afghan soil to be used by militant groups against Pakistan or any other country.

“Pakistan should not blame Afghanistan for the lack of control, incompetence, and problems in its own territory. Such incidents can have very bad consequences, which will be out of Pakistan’s control,” the spokesman warned without elaborating.

Security sources told VOA that the air strikes had sparked skirmishes between Pakistani and Afghan security forces across several posts along the nearly 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries.

The Taliban Defense Ministry later confirmed in a statement that its border security forces targeted Pakistani outposts with “heavy weapons” in retaliation to the aerial incursions into Afghan territory.

Separately, a TTP statement claimed the strikes hit Pakistani refugee camps in the Afghan border area rather than its members. The claim could not be verified immediately.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military said Monday that its troops had conducted a pre-dawn intelligence-led security operation in North Waziristan, killing eight TTP members. The slain militants included a key commander who played a role in plotting Saturday’s attack on the army base, the statement said.

Islamabad says that TTP has intensified cross-border attacks from Afghan sanctuaries since the establishment of the Taliban government in Kabul in 2021. The violence has reportedly killed about 2,000 Pakistanis, including police and military personnel, and strained relations between the two countries.

In April 2022, Pakistani fighter planes also carried out raids against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the United Nations dispute Taliban claims they are not harboring foreign militant groups on Afghan soil.

“In the region and beyond, there are well-founded concerns over the presence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” Roza Otunbayeva, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told a March 6 U.N. Security Council meeting.

“It is not only Daesh that constitutes a threat but also TTP, a major concern for Pakistan, which has seen an increase in terrorist activity,” Otunbayeva said.

Daesh is an acronym for the Islamic State, and this militant group is an Afghanistan-based regional IS affiliate that conducts terrorist attacks on both sides of the long border between the two countries.

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