Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 16 Pakistani civilians have been wounded as fighting broke out between Pakistani and Afghan border forces for the second time in less than a week, a Pakistani medical official says.
An emergency was declared on Thursday at the main hospital in the Pakistani city of Chaman after heavy artillery firing started around midday (07:00 GMT) near the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing, Dr Akhtar Mohammed, an official at the hospital, told Al Jazeera.
“Four civilians were in critical condition, and they have been sent to Quetta for further treatment,” he said, adding that two children were among the wounded. “No dead bodies were brought to hospital so far.”
Pakistani military officials alleged “indiscriminate firing” was directed from the Afghan side of the border towards civilian areas of Chaman.
Chaman authorities told Al Jazeera that markets near the border have shut down and a tense calm has fallen over the city.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence alleged that Pakistani forces had opened fire first.
In a statement on Twitter, the ministry said the Kabul government believes dialogue is the way forward.
At least nine Pakistani civilians were killed on Sunday in a skirmish between the two countries near the same border crossing, which connects Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan to Afghanistan’s southeastern Kandahar province.
The Pakistani military accused the Afghan authorities of opening “unprovoked and indiscriminate” fire.
Pakistani Defence Minister Khwaja Mohammed Asif told parliament on Monday that Afghan authorities had “apologised” for Sunday’s incident and said it wouldn’t be repeated.
Asif had alleged that a “provocation was started by Afghanistan” when Pakistan’s border forces were repairing the border fence.
Kabul also said any repetition of Sunday’s incident would be “regrettable”.
The Chaman border crossing is almost 120km (74 miles) northwest of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. It is one of the busiest crossings between the two countries and a key trade route.
The border was closed for a week last month when a Pakistani security official was shot dead there by an unknown gunman.
Since the Afghan Taliban took over Afghanistan in August last year, relations between the two neighbours have been tense.
Pakistan has accused Afghanistan of harbouring the armed group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban.