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Afghan forces’ border clash with Pakistan spurs rise in nationalism

KABUL — Afghan forces claimed Thursday that they had overrun and destroyed a Pakistani-held border crossing in a remote area, an event that provoked a spontaneous outpouring of nationalist sentiment here, sending thousands of students into the streets in demonstrations and sparking lively debate on social network sites.

A funeral for Qasim Khan, an Afghan border policeman who was the only confirmed victim of the clash, turned into a patriotic rally. An ambulance pressed into service as a hearse to carry Khan’s body from Jalalabad to his home village in rural Nangarhar Province was strewn with flowers, and mourners declared a victory over Pakistan. Nearly 200 miles away in Gardez, a city in Paktia Province, Khan was hailed as a national hero by marching crowds of students who beat drums and chanted anti-Pakistan slogans.

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A Facebook page was started by Afghan supporters to campaign for Khan to be posthumously awarded the rank of general.

A spokesman for the Afghan Border Police unit in eastern Nangarhar Province said troops from the unit had burned the post at the border crossing in fighting that began Wednesday night and finished early Thursday morning. They also took back five Afghan police posts that had been occupied by Pakistani forces, he said. Afghan officials have said that Pakistan had built the crossing without Afghan approval, and it was one of several that President Hamid Karzai had publicly complained about last month.

The border police spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with his agency’s policy, said there were unconfirmed reports that nine Pakistani militiamen had been killed in the clash, which took place in the Goshta district.

However, Pakistani government officials said only two of their frontier constabulary officers were wounded in what a Foreign Ministry statement described as an ‘‘unprovoked firing incident’’ started by the Afghans, to which the Pakistani side reacted with ‘‘maximum restraint.’’ An Afghan member of Parliament from the Goshta district, Friadon Momand, said he had heard that the border crossing had not been destroyed and was still operating.

“We are not the aggressors. They are the ones provoking and fanning these clashes,’’ said Major General Gul Nabi Ahmadzia, the Afghan Border Police commander in charge of the operation. ‘‘While we are waiting for our politicians to take action and decide what to do, we showed that Afghans are not incapable of protecting their country.’’

‘They are the ones provoking and fanning these clashes.’

Gul Nabi Ahmadzia, Afghan Border Police general 
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The operation aroused an unusual degree of reaction, especially among young Afghans, in contrast to their apathy over actions by their army and police forces in clashes with ­Afghan insurgents.

“An Afghan Border Police officer died last night fighting Pakistanis,’’ read a Facebook post attributed to Sohrab Sharifi. ‘‘Afghans enraged and showed emotions. But now eight Afghan local policemen killed by [Sons of Pakistan] Taliban, all will remain silent.’’

Sharifi was referring to reports that eight Afghan local police were killed Thursday morning by a roadside bomb that blew up as their truck passed by in the village of Pashtunabad in Logar Province.

Abdul Wali Wakil, chairman of the Logar Provincial Council, said the officers had just graduated from a training program run by US Special Forces soldiers and had just been brought by the US troops to their assignment in the area.

In an unrelated episode in western Afghanistan, another Afghan local police unit was attacked by the Taliban, and 18 policemen were captured and taken prisoner in the Ghormach district of Faryab Province, according to one army official.

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