The Afghan foreign ministry says authorities have launched an investigation into the killing of 16 people earlier this week on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A ministry spokesman Thursday said the incident is being investigated at Pakistan's request.  He said the probe should decide once and for all if the victims were Taleban militants or Pakistani civilians.

Islamabad says they were Pakistani civilians and it has lodged a strong protest by summoning to the foreign ministry Afghanistan's ambassador

There are conflicting reports about the identity of the dead.  An Afghan commander, Abdul Razak, said they were Taleban militants who crossed the border from Pakistan Tuesday, and that they included two Taleban commanders believed to have organized several attacks.

But the governor of Kandahar province, where the incident took place, said an initial investigation indicated that the victims were mostly Afghan criminals living in Pakistan.

The incident further deepened a rift between the two countries, with Afghanistan accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to stop militants based in Pakistan from waging attacks on Afghan soil.

Earlier this month, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf accused his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, of being oblivious to events in his own country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.