Afghans flee shelling from Pakistan: official

A barrage of cross-border artillery and rocket attacks from Pakistan have forced thousands of Afghan villagers to flee their homes, witnesses and officials in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

The shelling was reported in eastern Kunar province after Pakistan accused Afghanistan of giving safe haven to militants who infiltrated the border to kill 13 Pakistani soldiers.

Afghanistan and Pakistan typically blame each other for Taliban violence plaguing both sides of their porous border.

"More than 500 families have been displaced in two districts of Dangam and Nari due to continued Pakistani rocket shelling in the past two weeks," said Wasefullah Wasef, a spokesman for the provincial government in Kunar.

Afghan families are large and typically number seven to 10 people.

"The shelling has intensified after the recent incident in which some Pakistani soldiers were killed by Taliban militants," Wasef told AFP.

Wasef said officials "believe" the rockets were fired by Pakistani troops, who are operating along the border against homegrown Islamist insurgents.

The Pakistani military was not immediately reachable for comment.

Mohammad Fazel Naseh, provincial head for refugees, told AFP: "So far 343 displaced families from Dangam district, and more than 270 families from Nari and Marawara districts have been registered."

Mohammad Yusuf, police chief of Nari also accused Pakistan's military over the shelling.

"We have intelligence that the rockets are fired from Pakistani army posts situated directly on the other side of the border," he told AFP.

Locals in Dangam district told AFP that three residents, including a woman, were injured on Tuesday after rockets fired from Pakistan slammed into a home.

"Many people have already left their homes in the past two weeks. We have stayed, but we can not venture out of our hiding places because of the continued shelling," a local resident said.

"We are poor people, we demand the government take action to protect us," added another resident, Abdul Qader.

Pakistan said 13 soldiers were killed after militants crossed from Afghanistan into the northwestern district of Upper Dir, a key transit route that neighbours the Swat valley where Pakistan defeated a Taliban insurgency in 2009.

Six were killed in gunbattles on Sunday and another seven were beheaded after going missing, the military said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Monday, Pakistan summoned the deputy Afghan ambassador in protest and to demand that Kabul "take appropriate measures" to stop incidents in the future.

Pakistan says rebels have regrouped in eastern Afghanistan.

Its troops have been fighting local Taliban for years but US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that Washington is running out of patience over Pakistani havens for militants who attack Americans in Afghanistan.

Islamabad imposed a blockade, now in its seventh month, on overland NATO supplies into Afghanistan after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border on November 26.

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