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Afghanistan Expels Pakistani, Iranian Clerics

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghan security officials say they have expelled 35 foreign Islamic clerics from southern Afghanistan.

The clerics, 31 from Pakistan and four from Iran, were removed from mosques in Dand district in southern Kandahar Province this week.

They were all accused of encouraging locals to wage a jihad, or holy struggle, against the Afghan government.

Ahmadullah Naziq, the head of the Dand district, told RFE/RL on October 11 that the Pakistani clerics had come from Pakistan's Balochistan Province.

Naziq said they were found with Pakistani identification cards and did not possess valid travel documents.

"We have questioned them and checked their properties in Muslim Bagh [district in Balochistan] they have Pakistani identity cards and do not carry Afghan ID cards," Naziq said.

"They have resettled in mosques in Afghan villages. They claim they are Afghans and they come from Kalat or Ghazni [Afghan cities] or other provinces."

Naziq added that four Iranian nationals were also expelled from Kandahar.

Foreign Influence Blamed

The arrests and expulsion of the clerics follow an investigation launched last month after the authorities received information that the clerics were propagating jihad against the government.

Naziq claims foreign Islamic clerics are still arriving from Pakistan. He said Kandahar authorities were preparing for a broader action against the illegal immigration of foreigners into southern Afghanistan.

The expulsion of the Pakistani clerics comes amid worsening relations between Kabul and Islamabad due to cross-border attacks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the Pakistani Army of indiscriminately shelling Afghan villages in order to further destabilize the already restive regions.

Islamabad, which denies the accusations, says its troops are responding to attacks by militants on the Afghan side of the border.