Afghanistan returns captured Pakistani soldier, five bodies


KHOST, Afghanistan — Afghan tribesmen on Monday returned a Pakistani soldier they captured in a deadly skirmish along the countries’ border, as well as the bodies of five soldiers, the governor of Afghanistan’s Khost province said.

The soldier and the bodies were handed to Pakistani troops, said Khost governor Hukum Khan Habibi.

The dispute arose over Pakistan’s work on a fence intended to span nearly all of the disputed 2,500-km (1,550-mile) border, much of it mountainous and porous. Afghan officials have alleged that Pakistani troops crossed onto Afghanistan soil, prompting firing on Sunday by border forces and the local tribal force.

The two sides later agreed on a ceasefire.

Border skirmishes in the area are common, although detention of a foreign soldier is rare. Each national government alleges that the other allows sheltering of Taliban militants who stage cross-border attacks.

The tribesmen handle security in their Zazi Maidan district of Khost.

The Pakistani military has previously said that two of its soldiers were killed. An Afghan army commander has said two tribesmen were killed in the skirmish.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military could not be immediately reached.

The incident threatened to derail recent agreement reached between the two neighbours to improve their bilateral ties.

During the recent visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Kabul, both the sides agreed to take a series of steps — including better coordination between the two militaries — in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed in a statement that the two militaries were engaged to defuse the situation.

The military’s media wing also added that Pakistan was exercising maximum restraint to avoid civilian casualties on the Afghan side of the border. — Agencies