PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A gun battle erupted Wednesday (September 6) between Pakistani and Afghan border forces, officials said, with each side blaming the other for starting the firefight that shut their busiest trade crossing.
"Afghan forces tried to establish a check post in an area where it is agreed... that both sides will not establish a check post," said Pakistani local administration official Irshad Mohmand, who also said the crossing remains closed.
"After an objection from the Pakistani side, the Afghan forces opened fire," he said, adding that Pakistani border forces responded with "retaliatory fire."
Afghanistan in turn blamed Pakistan.
"Pakistani forces attacked the Afghan side when Afghan forces wanted to reactivate their old outpost with an excavator," said Quraishi Badloon, an official for the information and culture directorate in Nangarhar province.
"The attack has resulted in casualties, but the exact figures are not known yet."
A local Pakistani police official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said gunshots started at around 1pm at the Torkham border crossing, halfway between Islamabad and Kabul, with an evacuation ordered.
The shooting stopped by late Wednesday afternoon, but the border remained shut, he said.
"The atmosphere is tense" and "forces on both sides are alert," he said.
One Pakistani border guard was wounded, said another local government official, who asked not to be identified.
The two sides fired mortars and light and heavy weapons at each other, the official added.
The crossing at Torkham is a key trading way point, where Afghanistan exports truckloads of coal and receives food and other supplies from Pakistan.
A gun battle also erupted at the crossing in February after Afghan authorities ordered the border shut, with both sides blaming the other for starting the firefight.
The same day, Pakistani troops repelled a cross-border raid from Afghanistan by "hundreds" of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, a senior official said, with extra forces rushed to the rugged frontier region.
"They were in hundreds and were armed with light and heavy weapons. We were ready to face the attack and exchange of fire continued for some four hours," Mohammad Ali, deputy commissioner of Chitral district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, told AFP.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani military's public relations wing, issued a statement saying "a large group of terrorists equipped with latest weapons" attacked two outposts in the area.
Four Pakistani troops were killed, while "12 terrorists were sent to hell," ISPR said.
"We were monitoring their movements in areas close to the border for two or three days," deputy commissioner Ali said.
"Informers have also sent us information about the militant group movement."
The TTP in a statement claimed to have seized two military posts in the Bomburit area of Chitral, Pakistan, which is about 200km northwest of the capital Islamabad.
Police official Karim Khan told AFP that security forces had sealed entry to Chitral, a rugged area of steep hills and valleys popular with domestic tourists.
Another official said troops and paramilitary forces had been rushed in to reinforce the district.
"Sanitization of the area is being carried out to eliminate any other terrorists," ISPR said.
At the height of their power, the TTP held sway over swathes of mountain communities, enforcing austere Islamic law, and patrolling land just 140km north of Islamabad.
But the Pakistani military came down hard after 2014 when TTP militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed more than 140 people, most of them pupils.
Its fighters were largely routed into neighboring Afghanistan, but now Islamabad claims the TTP are using Afghanistan as a foothold to stage assaults across the border -- a charge Kabul denies.
Diplomatic tensions have been stoked by frequent flare-ups along their mostly mountainous border, which Kabul has long disputed, including sporadic gunfights and crossing closures.
In the 12 months following August 2021, Pakistan witnessed a 50% surge in militant attacks focussed in the western border provinces, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Both nations are in dire economic straits, with Afghanistan reeling from a drop-off in aid over the past two years and Pakistan crippled by a domestic downturn and runaway inflation.