July 1, 2011 / 2:55 PM / in 6 years

Afghan general resigns over Pakistan shelling

KABUL (Reuters) - A barrage of 40 rockets was fired into eastern Afghanistan from Pakistan on Friday, a senior official said, as the top border police commander for the region offered his resignation over the government’s response to weeks of attacks.

General Aminullah Amarkhil, head of the border police in the eastern region, said he was not able to return fire and could not stand by as people were killed by the shells.

“I have submitted my resignation to the Interior Ministry because I can’t see my people being killed by shells fired from Pakistan,” Amarkhil told Reuters.

“I have promised my people here that the shelling would be stopped, but people are still dying because we have no order from the central government to respond,” he added.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said in late June that four children were killed in eastern Kunar province by Pakistani artillery shells, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Pakistan had fired 470 rockets over the border that month.

Pakistan last Monday rejected the Afghan allegations of large scale cross-border shelling, saying only that “a few accidental rounds” may have crossed the border when it pursued militants who had attacked its security forces.

Amarkhil’s spokesman said the resignation had not been accepted, but Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the ministry had not received a resignation letter.

Pakistan blames Afghanistan for giving militants safe haven on its side of the border, leaving Pakistan forces vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of the country’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas.

But Kabul has limited reach in many of Afghanistan’s border regions, where insurgents that target Karzai’s government have been gaining ground in recent years.

The most powerful insurgent groups are also based in Pakistan, and widely believed to receive covert support from factions in Islamabad, which makes Afghans deeply resentful of allegations of cross-border meddling.

Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of eastern Nangarhar province, said around another 40 rockets were fired across the Pakistan border and hit both residential and non-residential areas.

Sherzai has sent a letter to the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad asking for an immediate halt to the attacks, and warned that the attacks could damage ties.

“Such attacks from the Pakistani side, and the absence of actions to prevent them, could hurt relations between the two neighboring countries,” his spokesman said in a statement.

Fighting across the border overshadowed talks when the two countries met last week, along with the United States, to map out plans for talks with the Taliban. Deep distrust remains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, whom it openly backed when they were in power from 1996 to 2001, to maintain its influence in Afghanistan.

It is impossible to verify independently exactly what is happening on the remote mountainous border.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Paul Tait and Sugita Katyal

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