US Coalition forces in Afghanistan launch shell salvo against militants in Pak territory

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Kabul, June 23 : The US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan reportedly launched two separate attacks in Pakistan on Sunday, claiming that they were in retaliation against rocket and artillery-attacks launched by militants from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan where they operate freely.

The insurgents' attacks in Khost and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan killed four Afghan civilians, at least two of them children, Afghan and NATO officials said. But, the number of casualties on the Pakistani side of the border was not available, reported the New York Times.

The first attack came shortly after midnight in the Khost province, where militants inside Afghanistan fired 13 rockets, apparently at a base for the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO force charged with maintaining order in Afghanistan. One rocket hit the base, causing no casualties, but another killed an Afghan civilian, officials said.

Later, in a second volley, five rockets sailed in from Pakistan, striking the village of Kundai, where a woman and her two children were killed, officials said. The security forces there located the militants' firing battery several hundred yards inside Pakistan and returned fire.

Officials from the security force said that Pakistani officials were immediately informed of the shelling.

The firing by NATO forces into Pakistani territory followed an American air-strike on a Pakistani border post earlier this month that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers belonging to Frontier Corps. The Pakistani government denounced the strike, and the American government expressed regret claiming that it was carried out in 'self-defence'.

Relations between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan were already extraordinarily tense. American and Afghan officials say the surging violence in Afghanistan is in large part caused by the sanctuaries that militants enjoy in Pakistan. Perhaps thousands of such sanctuaries have come up in Pakistan, most of them in the area along the remote and mountainous frontier where the government exercises no authority.

In these sanctuaries, the militants are free to train, regroup and plan new attacks in Afghanistan. American and NATO commanders have expressed frustration at the violence caused by the militants who cross from Pakistan, but they have so far been refused permission to conduct military operations there, reported the paper.

Last week, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened to send troops across the border to attack the militants if the Pakistani government did not prevent them from crossing the border. The Pakistani government has never exercised more than nominal control over long stretches of its border with Afghanistan, and Pakistani leaders say they do not have enough troops to secure the area.

ANI

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