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PESHAWAR: A gun battle erupted Wednesday between Pakistan and Afghan border forces, officials said, that shut their busiest trade crossing.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have had frosty relations since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul two years ago, with Islamabad accusing its neighbour of harbouring militants carrying out strikes on its soil.

“Afghan forces tried to establish a check post in an area where it is agreed… that both sides will not establish a check post,” said Pakistan local administration official Irshad Mohmand, who also said the crossing remains closed. “After an objection from the Pakistan side, the Afghan forces opened fire,” he said, adding that Pakistan border forces responded with “retaliatory fire”.

1 killed, 12 injured in Chaman by Afghan border forces firing

The Taliban government in turn blamed Pakistan. A local Pakistan police official, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said gunshots started at around 1:00 pm (0800 GMT) at the Torkham border crossing, halfway between Islamabad and Kabul, with an evacuation ordered.

The shooting stopped by late Wednesday afternoon but the border remained shut, he said.

“The atmosphere is tense” and “forces on both sides are alert”, he said.

One Pakistan border guard had been wounded in fire from light and heavy weapons, as well as mortars, said another local government official, who asked not to be identified.

The crossing at Torkham is a key trading waypoint, where Afghanistan exports truckloads of coal and receives food and other supplies from Pakistan.

Both nations are in dire economic straits, with Afghanistan reeling from a drop-off in aid following the end of the US-backed occupation and Pakistan crippled by a domestic downturn and runaway inflation.

A gun battle also erupted at the crossing in February after Taliban authorities ordered the border shut, with both sides blaming the other for starting the firefight.

“Efforts are being made to prevent the causes of this clash and the recurrence of such incidents,” Taliban government interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said on Wednesday.

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