ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A gunfight broke out at meeting involving U.S., Afghan and Pakistani soldiers in Pakistan on Monday, and a number of soldiers were killed and wounded, officials said.
The flag meeting in the northwest Kurram tribal agency had been called in a bid to resolve a border clash between Pakistani troops and Afghans the previous day.
Pakistan and Afghan officials gave starkly different accounts of the firing on the soldiers, while a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan said he had heard of an incident in a border area, but did not have details.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told Reuters: “At the meeting, a Pakistani officer rose up and fired at U.S. soldiers, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and the wounding of two others.”
Azimi said U.S. helicopters later arrived to evacuate the casualties. He said he did not know why the Pakistani officer had opened fire.
But Major-General Waheed Arshad, Pakistan’s military spokesman, said Pakistani troops were not involved in the firing.
“As the convoy (of U.S. soldiers) was moving back, some miscreants fired,” Arshad said.
“Three to four U.S. soldiers and three to four Pakistani soldiers were injured. Now we have reports that one U.S. soldier has died and a Pakistani soldier has also died.”
A senior Pakistani security official, however, gave another version of events.
“A man disguising himself as a Pakistani paramilitary soldier opened fire,” the official told Reuters.
The incident came a day after Pakistan said Afghan troops had started “unprovoked firing” on five or six border posts in the Kurram tribal region. Pakistani paramilitary forces retaliated and killed up to seven Afghan troops on Sunday, according to Pakistani officials.
Afghanistan said its forces suffered minor injuries but two school children were killed, which prompted thousands of civilians to join government forces in fighting Pakistani troops in reaction to the “infiltration”.
Relations between the neighbors have deteriorated sharply over the past 18 months, largely over Afghan complaints that Pakistan is not doing enough to stop Taliban insurgents operating from the Pakistani side of the disputed border.
The clash comes two weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met for the first time in months and agreed to step up security cooperation.
Disagreement over the internationally recognized border, known as the Durand Line after the British colonial administrator who drew it, has bedeviled relations since Pakistan’s creation in 1947.
Pakistan is also deeply suspicious of the involvement of its old rival, India, in Afghanistan.