Afghans ransack Pakistan embassy after border clash

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The Independent Online

An angry crowd ransacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul, smashing computers and telephones while diplomats took cover in the basement. The mob was protesting against alleged incursions by Pakistani troops. Pakistan has closed the embassy and is demanding compensation.

Hundreds of protesters marched through the centre of Kabul yesterday, shouting slogans, before scores of people broke away from the demonstration to scale the embassy wall. "Stop the invasion," they shouted.

Skirmishes broke out last week in a disputed tribal zone that straddles the old Durand line, used as the border in the rugged mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pro-government Afghan militia exchanged fire with Pakistani troops.

Tribal elders claim that 2,000 Pakistani soldiers have moved 25 miles over the line to establish eight frontier posts in the autonomous area, where no troops have been allowed since independence 56 years ago. Tisfan Khan, of the Frontier Surveillance Brigade, said: "The Pakistanis have used the excuse of the presence of al-Qa'ida to deploy in the tribal zone. We are ready to repel them."

Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has dispatched a team of officials to assess whether troops have crossed the international frontier, and said he would "seek clarification" from Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan has repeatedly denied that its troops entered Afghanistan.

The Pakistan ambassador, Rastam Shah Mohmand, held a press conference at the damaged embassy before it was closed. He demanded: "Where was the Afghan government? Where were the security forces?"

He complained that accusations by Afghan officials had helped spark the attack and said the embassy would not reopen until compensation had been paid.

Tension increasedlast week when the Pakistani leader criticised the Karzai government as ineffective because it was not ethnically representative of the entire country. President Karzai lamented that "extremism has now got its claws deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan". He urged Europe to deliver its commitments to Afghan reconstruction, and not to sub-contract them to Pakistan.