CHITRAL , (Reuters) – Several hundred militants fromAfghanistan launched a pre-dawn cross-border raid on Pakistani paramilitary posts and civilian settlements, killing up to 15 people, government and security officials said.
Soldiers of the Chitral Scouts and a few civilians were among the dead in the string of attacks that began with an assault on paramilitary check posts in the border village of Arandu in the northwest just across from Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.
Militants then attacked more areas near the border, including civilian population, triggering clashes with the security forces that lasted for hours.
“Militants attacked some posts with heavy weapons while firing mortar bombs on others causing the casualties,” one security official said of the attack in Arandu.
The area’s top government official, Rehmat Ullah Wazir, said a total of 15 people, mostly troops, were killed, while a military official in the region put the death toll at 12.
Wazir said there had been casualties on the militant side but he did not say how many.
Cross-border raids have raised tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent months as they battle protracted insurgencies by Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants.
Pakistani Taliban fighters who fled to Afghanistan in the face of army offensives have joined allies there to regroup and threaten Pakistani border regions, analysts say.
Twenty-seven Pakistani servicemen were killed and 45 militants died in clashes in July when some 600 militants from Afghanistan attacked two Pakistani villages in the Dir region, also in the country’s northwest.
Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility for the Dir attack, part of seemingly new militant strategy of carrying out large-scale attacks on government and army targets.
Militants have largely relied on a campaign of suicide and bomb attacks that have killed thousands of people across the country.
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for giving refuge to militants on its side of the border, leaving its troops to counter-attack when it chases them out of the tribal areas and into Afghanistan.
Kabul in turn has blamed Pakistan in recent months for killing dozens of civilians in cross-border shelling.