ISLAMABAD – Pakistani security forces in a troubled northwestern tribal region foiled an overnight cross-border attack from Afghanistan, killing six militants, two military officials said Wednesday.
The foreign ministry lodged a protest over the attack on a Pakistani border post and urged Kabul to take steps to eliminate “terrorist sanctuaries” on Afghan soil. It was a telling reversal for Pakistan, which for years has been accused by both Afghanistan and the United States of harbouring insurgents that carry out such attacks from its side of the border.
Many militants are thought to have fled across the frontier after the Pakistani military on June 15 launched a major operation against insurgent safe havens in the North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan. Washington has for years urged Islamabad to launch such an operation against local and foreign militants using North Waziristan as a base for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to start peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, but approved the military operations after militants attacked the country’s busiest airport in the port city of Karachi.
Since then, the military said it has killed 570 militants and lost 34 soldiers. Authorities say over 800,000 people have also fled North Waziristan.
The overnight attack took place in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern Dir tribal region when a group of about 70 militants attacked a border post on Tuesday night. The troops returned fire, killing six attackers and wounding nine others, the officials said. They said the rest fled back to Afghanistan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media.
A foreign ministry statement said a “strong protest” was lodged over the attack and that Afghan authorities were urged “to take effective steps to stop the use of Afghan territory for repeated cross border fire and physical attacks by terrorists”.
It added that Pakistan urged Kabul to take measures “to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan territory.”
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,250-kilometre (1,400-mile) border.