Taliban clash with Iranian troops in 'misunderstanding' at border

A witness told 'The National' he heard gunfire in the area

A Taliban fighter mans a machine gun mounted on a vehicle near the venue of an open-air pro-Taliban rally on the outskirts of Kabul. AFP

Clashes broke out between Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard troops and Taliban fighters at the Afghan-Iran border on Wednesday, witnesses told The National.

While the cause of the conflict was unclear, a battle between the two groups was reportedly raging near the Kang district of Nimruz province from early in the evening.

“The Iranian forces had entered the Afghan side of the border and installed a couple of checkpoints in Kang,” a 48-year-old shopkeeper, who only wished to be identified as Ahmadullah, told The National.

“One of our village elders noticed the unprovoked invasion and took the matter to the Taliban’s district police chief here. Within 30 minutes, Taliban fighters moved their forces to the border and clashes started,” he said.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the group has maintained a precarious relationship with Iran, often seeking its support and approval, but failing to establish strong alliances.

The two nations share a 900-kilometre border, and Iran does not recognise the Taliban government.

Ahmadullah said he saw tanks and heavy weaponry being moved to the border by the Taliban and could hear heavy gunfire and artillery for hours.

“It has stopped now, in the last hours, but one Taliban fighter told me they caused several casualties among the Iranian soldiers,” Abdullah said, adding that he saw injured Taliban fighters being transferred to the clinic in the district's centre.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed the attack to ToloNews in Kabul. He said the attacks had been contained, but did not give any further details on cause or casualties.

Iranian local media reported that the clashes were caused by a misunderstanding, citing official sources. Tasnim News Agency said Iran has walls built within its territory near Shaghalak to discourage smugglers and human traffickers. It said farmers had crossed the walls but were still inside Iranian territory.

Ahmadullah, however, claimed that Iran has a history of not only breaching Afghan borders but also targeting Afghan asylum-seekers.

“Iranian forces have killed a lot of Afghans under the excuse of curbing human trafficking and drug smuggling. They are still shooting poor Afghan refugees nearly every other day,” he said.

“At some point, we will run out of patience and respond to their mischief,” he said.

Updated: December 1st 2021, 6:45 PM