KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A shootout between Afghan and Pakistani border guards killed one Afghan policeman on Thursday in a remote southern region where the border between the two countries is poorly marked, officials said.
According to police spokesman Zia Durrani in the Afghan province of Kandahar, the skirmish started shortly after dawn and lasted for about two hours. The two sides engaged in sporadic exchanges, using rifles and firing rockets across the boundary, he said.
Kandahar government spokesman Dawakhan Minapal said the fighting in the province's remote Maroof district was sparked by an attempt by the Pakistani border police to construct an outpost on the Afghan side of the border.
But Pakistani official Asif Yusufzai said his country's paramilitary forces "only retaliated" after the Afghan forces started shooting first. He said he didn't have any details on whether anyone was killed or wounded.
Pakistani forces have been constructing a checkpoint on their side of the border, and the Afghan forces have been raising objections against it, added Yusufzai, who is the top official in the southwestern district of Qila Saifullah along the border with Afghanistan.
The Afghan forces believe the area where the Pakistanis are constructing the checkpoint is disputed territory, Yusufzai said.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a porous border of several hundred kilometers (miles).
The two sides sometime clash and fight over various issues, including claims that forces from one country crossed into the otehr's territory. There is also violence in the area associated with cross-border movements of militants.
The neighboring countries have had rocky relations for years, mainly over sanctuaries on both sides of the border.
Kabul has long demanded that Pakistan uproot militant safe havens on its side of the boundary, including those of the Haqqani network, which is blamed for orchestrating attacks inside Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network has sanctuaries in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region. The Pakistani army had conducted several offensives against the militants in the lawless tribal regions — except in North Waziristan. Islamabad says its forces are stretched too thin to launch offensives there.
For its part, Pakistan wants Kabul to take action against the chief of its local Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, who is said to be based in Kunar province in Afghanistan. Islamabad also alleges that most of the cross border militant attacks against the Pakistani army were planned and executed by Fazlullah, based on other side of the border.
Associated Press Writer Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman, Pakistan, contributed to this report.