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AKIPRESS.COM - Afghan officials said unknown aircraft hit Taliban forces in a province along the border with Tajikistan, killing eight militants, a day after a shooting that left at least two Tajiks killed, RFE/RLreports.
The origin of the aircraft was unclear. Tajik officials denied its warplanes or helicopters were involved, as did Russia, which has a sizable military contingent in Tajikistan.
Khalil Asir, spokesman for police in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, said the aircraft struck early on August 27 in the Darqad district near the border area. In addition to the dead, six other militants were wounded, he said.
Cross-border clashes are rare along Afghanistan's 1,400-kilometer border with Tajikistan. However, security in some border provinces, including Takhar, has deteriorated over the past few months and regular clashes have broken out between Afghan security forces and militant groups, including the Taliban.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying it broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards. Mujahid said the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.
Mohammad Jawid Hejri, the provincial governor’s spokesman, also said the clash had occurred between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. He said the area is under Taliban control.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service about the reported airstrike, border guard spokesman Muhammadjon Ulughkhojaev said he could not confirm it.
“An operation to search for and detain armed individuals is ongoing" in a neighboring region, he said. "But the Border Guards Service didn't use helicopters there."
The Russian Defense Ministry told the RIA Novosti news agency that Russian jets were not involved.
Other Tajik security agencies did not immediately respond to queries about other aircraft in the area.
The incident came one day after two Tajik foresters were killed in a shooting incident along the border. A Tajik security official, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the shooting -- either gunfire or mortars--- came from the Afghan side of the border.
A third Tajik forester was also wounded in the August 26 shooting, according to Sulton Valizoda, the head of the Farkhor district.
“Foresters, along with an employee of a livestock farm, were out gathering hay. They had official permission,” Valizoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. “But they were attacked, and two were killed. The case is being investigated.”
The Tajik Border Guard Service said in a statement on August 26 that the three were all forest rangers.