Torkham, the main border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been closed with residents of the area reporting hearing gunfire near the normally bustling border transit point.
It was not immediately clear whether Afghan or Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham border crossing, near the Khyber Pass, but Monday’s move comes after relations between Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and Pakistan deteriorated sharply.
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Mullah Mohammad Siddiq, a Taliban-appointed commissioner at Torkham, said Pakistan has not been abiding by its “commitments … so the crossing point was shut down”, The Associated Press reported.
Siddiq advised Afghans to avoid travelling to the crossing, located on Afghanistan’s side in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, until further notice.
Khalid Khan, a Pakistani police official, confirmed the border closure and what he described as intermittent exchanges of fire at Torkham, located in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Disputes linked to the 2,600km (1,615 miles) border have been a bone of contention between the neighbours for decades. The Torkham border point is the main point of transit for travellers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan.
Mohammad Ali Shinwari, a resident of Landi Kotal on the Pakistani side, said the border was closed late on Sunday and gunfire erupted early on Monday, Reuters news agency reported.
“When we heard gunshots in the morning, we got worried and believed that troops of the two countries might have started fighting,” he said.
Clashes on the border have occurred for years, during the two-decade rule of Afghanistan’s US-backed government and since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021.
Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani security forces have also at times closed the second most important crossing between the two countries.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in armed attacks since November, when the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, ended a months-long ceasefire agreement with the government.
The outlawed TTP is a separate armed group allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It has been waging a rebellion against the state of Pakistan for more than a decade.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that the risks of armed fighting stemming from Afghan soil could affect the world.
A Taliban foreign ministry spokesperson said later Pakistan should raise issues in private and not at public forums. The ministry added that the Taliban administration would not allow its territory to be used against other countries, particularly against its neighbours.