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5 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan, artillery fired from Pakistan kills 4 Afghan civilians
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Five NATO service members have been killed in roadside bombings in Afghanistan during the past two days, while Afghan officials reported Sunday that four civilians died when hundreds of shells and rockets were fired from neighboring Pakistan.
The artillery shells hit homes along frontier areas from which insurgents have in the past staged cross-border attacks.
The Afghan government has not yet openly blamed the Pakistani military for the artillery barrage, which reportedly hit districts in the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar. Both are considered insurgent hotbeds, and militants allied with both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban regularly cross the mountainous border in both directions.
Pakistan has railed against Afghan and NATO forces for not doing enough to stop the rising number of cross-border attacks, which it says have killed dozens of members of its security forces. However, there has been little sympathy from the U.S. and Afghan governments, which have long complained Pakistan gives sanctuary to militants fighting in Afghanistan crossing the border in the opposite direction.
In the latest reported cross-border violation, nearly 400 rockets and shells were fired into Afghanistan on Saturday and killed at least four people in Dangam district along the border, according to Kunar provincial police chief Gen. Ewaz Mohammad Naziri.
He said those attacks and others in nearby Nuristan had led hundreds of families to flee the area.
There is little or no Afghan or NATO military presence in the area and large swaths of the region are controlled by insurgent groups. The information could not be independently verified because the area is largely off-limits to reporters.
Kabul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said: "The rocket attacks in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan are not acceptable to us and we are strongly condemning these attacks. We believe that the continuation of such rocket attacks will have a negative impact on the friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
President Hamid Karzai discussed artillery fire coming from Pakistan at a weekly meeting of his national security council, a statement said. It added that Karzai ordered an in-depth investigation into the attacks.
The cross-border attacks were discussed in Kabul last week during an official visit by Pakistan's new Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron, Ashraf and Karzai jointly called for a common stand against insurgents operating in the lawless border areas. Ashraf openly complained at a news conference about attacks against Pakistan originating in Kunar.
Last week, Pakistan said dozens of militants from Afghanistan's Kunar province attacked a village near Pakistan's northwest Bajur tribal area and appeared to be targeting members of a militia fighting Pakistani Taliban. Local Pakistani officials said 15 militants and two anti-Taliban militiamen were killed.
In other violence, a spokesman for the governor of eastern Wardak province said insurgents had kidnapped five Afghan men working a base joint operated by Afghan and NATO forces and killed them. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said their bodies were discovered early Sunday.
All five of the NATO service members were killed in roadside bomb attacks one Saturday in the east, two in the east and two in the south on Sunday. NATO provided no further details on the incidents or the nationalities of the troops.
The deaths bring the number of foreign forces killed in July to 32, for a total of 247 so far this year.
NATO also said that it killed a number of insurgents with an airstrike in the Mohammad Agha district of eastern Logar province. It did not provide further details.
Fighting in eastern Afghanistan has been raging since spring as NATO tries to clear the area of insurgents.
Patrick Quinn contributed to this report from Kabul.