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Shoot-out Between Pakistani, Afghan Troops Leaves Several Dead

A shoot-out by Pakistani and Afghan troops along their common border has left five Afghan troops were killed and three Pakistani soldiers were seriously wounded. It is not clear what sparked the clash between the nominal allies. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

Pakistan's top military spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad says the fighting broke out Sunday morning.

He says Afghan forces fired on a Pakistani border post in Kurram Agency, an isolated tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

"This was an unprovoked firing which was retaliated very strongly by our Frontier Corps troops which are deployed there," said Arshad.

He says the exchange left at least five Afghan soldiers dead and three Pakistanis seriously wounded.

Afghan officials have confirmed the incident but insist Pakistani soldiers fired the first shot. One report quoted an Afghan official as saying three civilians and one policeman had been killed in the shooting.

General Arshad says the matter is already under review by a tri-partite security commission, which includes senior officials from Pakistan, NATO and Afghan forces.

The gun battle is the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the two key U.S. allies.

This is the second time in less than a month the two armies have exchanged fire along their border.

Fighting erupted several weeks ago after Afghan soldiers reportedly tore down a section of a controversial new security fence Pakistan is erecting in the area.

The fence is meant to limit cross-border activity by suspected Taleban insurgents operating in the isolated tribal regions.

Afghan officials say Taleban insurgents have established a series of bases inside Pakistan, and routinely cross the border to attack Afghan and international forces.

However, Kabul has strongly opposed the proposed fence. Officials there say it would unfairly divide tribal communities that live on both sides of the border.

Nevertheless, Pakistan announced this week that it had completed the first section of the fence, and bilateral relations appeared further strained.

General Arshad says Sunday's clash did not occur anywhere near the area being fenced, and he says there is still no clear indication what prompted the violence.