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Pak protests killing of troops on Afghan soil Kabul govt urged to take prompt action against perpetrators of crime

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21, (AFP): Pakistan said Thursday that 23 of its paramilitary soldiers who were killed by insurgents had been executed on Afghan soil, and delivered a formal protest to the Kabul government. Afaction of the Pakistani Taleban from Mohmand near the Afghan border said last Sunday it had killed the soldiers, who were kidnapped in the area in June 2010.

The incident cast doubt over the future of peace talks with the militants which were announced by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Jan 29. The Pakistani foreign ministry said Sartaj Aziz, prime ministerial adviser on national security and foreign affairs, delivered the protest to Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Maqbool Osmani in the Maldives capital Male, where both were attending a meeting of the SAARC regional grouping.

It said Aziz reminded the Afghan minister of an agreement at an Ankara summit last week — that each side would prevent the use of its territory against the other, and would “take action against militants engaged in hostile action”. Sharif said last month he wanted to “give peace another chance” following a seven-year Taleban insurgency in his country that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives. But Taleban attacks continued and the claimed killing of the 23 paramilitaries caused talks to be suspended. Earlier on Thursday security officials said Pakistani jets launched strikes on Taleban hideouts in the northwest, killing 15 people.

At the meeting in Male, Aziz urged the Afghan government “to take prompt action to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of this heinous and inhumane crime”, the foreign ministry said in a statement. It did not say why it believes the soldiers were killed inside Afghanistan. But Pakistan and Afghanistan share a porous border and Islamic militants regularly cross it to carry out attacks. Islamabad and Kabul regularly accuse each other of supporting cross-border militants and giving sanctuary to them.

Afghanistan in particular accuses Pakistan of supporting Afghan Taleban insurgents trying to overthrow the Kabul government. Pakistani troops have for years been battling homegrown insurgents in a tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Washington considers the tribal area the main hub of Taleban and al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

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