May 14, 2007 / 1:40 PM / 12 years ago

NATO troops in gunfight on Afghan border

KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO soldier was killed and four wounded in an ambush while they were returning to the Afghan side of the border after meeting Pakistani counterparts, NATO said on Monday.

A foreign soldier keeps watch next to a damaged vehicle after a bomb blast in the western city of Herat May 14, 2007. A roadside bomb ripped through a vehicle in a convoy of Western troops as it passed over a bridge outside the Afghan city of Herat on Monday, wounding several soldiers, witnesses said. REUTERS/Jalil Razai

The soldiers were on their way back from a meeting called to end border skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistani troops following a clash on Sunday that was the worst in decades between the uneasy neighbours.

“They were ambushed by unknown assailants near Teri Mangel, Pakistan, after leaving a border meeting,” the statement said.

The NATO statement appeared to support Pakistan’s version of the incident, and contradicted an Afghan defence ministry spokesman who accused a Pakistani officer of opening fire on Americans at the meeting, killing two and wounding two.

Major-General Waheed Arshad, Pakistan’s military spokesman, said: “As the convoy (of U.S. soldiers) was moving back, some miscreants fired. Three to four U.S. soldiers and three to four Pakistani soldiers were injured.”

A senior Pakistani security official, however, told Reuters the assailant was disguised as a Pakistani paramilitary soldier.

“DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES”

The Afghan foreign ministry issued a strongly worded statement accusing Pakistan of invading Afghan soil, when troops from the two countries clashed in Paktia province on Sunday.

It said 13 Afghans had been killed, and 28 wounded in the clashes, and warned Pakistan that any similar action would “entail dangerous consequences for the stability of the region”.

Pakistan said Afghan troops started “unprovoked firing” on border posts on Sunday, and Pakistani paramilitary forces retaliated and killed up to seven Afghan troops.

Afghan officials complain Pakistan is not doing enough to help stop Taliban insurgents crossing the border. Pakistan says the core of the insurgency lies within Afghanistan.

The border incidents came hard on the heels of a major success in operations against the Taliban, as NATO announced that U.S.-led forces had killed Mullah Dadullah, the insurgent’s top commander in southern Afghanistan, on Saturday.

The death of Dadullah, the one-legged fighter nicknamed Afghanistan’s Al Zarqawi after the slain al Qaeda leader in Iraq, was considered the biggest blow to the Taliban since the start of their insurgency after coalition troops overthrew their radical Islamic government in 2001.

“Dadullah was very bad man and he was a cruel man. He beheaded many Afghans,” said Bahadur, a 30-year-old man from Spin Boldak, a town near the border with Pakistan.

Afghan authorities said on Monday they had buried Dadullah in the southern province of Kandahar, but his relatives could rebury him somewhere else if they wished to.

Near the western city of Herat on Monday, a roadside bomb ripped through a convoy carrying Western troops as it passed over a bridge, witnesses said. Several soldiers were wounded.

Germany’s Defence Minister Franz Josef called for a review of the way Western forces operate in Afghanistan after a spate of civilian casualties that threatens Afghan public support for the battle against the Taliban

“We have to make sure in future that operations do not take place in this way. We don’t want the local population against us,” he told reporters in Brussels.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has more than 30,000 troops in Afghanistan operating alongside a smaller U.S.-led coalition. A key part of their strategy is to convince Afghans to back them against the Taliban.

Additional reporting by Saeed Ali Achakzai in Spin Boldak, Mark John in Brussels

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