Islamabad has urged the Taliban-led government in Kabul to take “stern actions” against militants launching cross-border attacks on Pakistan, a day after the Taliban accused Pakistan of carrying out deadly air strikes inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 17 that its security forces are being increasingly targeted by “terrorist” attacks launched from Afghanistan.
"Pakistan, once again, strongly condemns terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan," the statement said.
On April 16, Taliban officials summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul to protest over air strikes purportedly carried out by Pakistan in Afghanistan’s southeastern Khost and eastern Kunar provinces.
Tribal elders and eyewitnesses said more than 30 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the air strikes.
On April 17, Shabir Ahmad Osmani, director of information and culture in Khost, told AFP that "41 civilians, mainly women and children, were killed and 22 others were wounded in air strikes by Pakistani forces near the Durand line in Khost Province."
The death toll cannot be independently verified.
The Afghan news channel TOLOnews showed images of children's bodies it said were killed in the air strikes. TOLOnews also showed protests by hundreds of Khost residents condemning Pakistan and shouting anti-Pakistan slogans.
Islamabad has so far refused to comment on the Afghan allegations. Earlier, the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul denied Pakistan was behind the attack.
On April 14, seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in the border area of North Waziristan, the Foreign Ministry statement said. North Waziristan borders Khost, where the air strikes are said to have taken place the following day.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed concern over the incident.
"UNAMA is deeply concerned by reports of civilian casualties, including women and children, as a result of airstrikes in Khost & Kunar provinces," it said, adding that it was working to establish the facts and verify losses.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned Islamabad of “bad consequences” if there was a repeat. But he did not elaborate on the consequences, or the numbers of people killed.
"The Pakistani side should know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side," Mujahid said.
The Taliban denies harboring Pakistani militant groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, which operates across the porous border with Afghanistan.
Militant attacks in Pakistan have been on the rise since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021. The attacks have been claimed either by the Pakistani Taliban or by an Islamic State group affiliate, which has strongholds in Afghanistan, but against whom the Taliban has been fighting.
In the first three months of this year, Pakistan saw 52 attacks by militants, compared with 35 in the same period last year, said Amir Rana, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, an independent think tank that monitors militant activity in Pakistan.
So far this year, 155 people have been killed in such attacks in Pakistan, compared with 68 last year.