At Least Three Dead In Latest Clashes Along Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

BISHKEK -- Clashes between local residents along a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border left at least three people dead and scores wounded in the volatile region before a truce was announced by both sides.

During the April 28-29 clashes three people were killed, including a 13-year-old girl, in the Leylek district of the Batken region, the Kyrgyz Health Ministry said, adding that at least 84 people were wounded on the Kyrgyz side.

Police in Kyrgyzstan's southern region of Batken blamed Tajik citizens for the escalation, saying they started shooting at a military unit located in the village of Kok-Tash, while gunfire was also reported from the Tajik side near the Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai.

Tajikistan's Border Guard Service rejected the Kyrgyz account, saying that Kyrgyz military personnel were the first to shoot when they opened fire at Tajik border units near the Golovnoi water distribution center, located in territory that Tajik authorities claim jurisdiction over.

Tajik authorities said earlier in the day that two Tajik citizens sustained gunshot wounds and were taken to the hospital on April 29.

But an RFE/RL correspondent on the ground said 23 people, including the mayor of the city of Isfara, were wounded by bullets, and one resident of Surkh village was killed.

Late on April 29, the two countries' foreign ministries announced they had agreed a cease-fire after hours of talks and would stick to it and pull back troops while resolving the conflict through diplomacy.

A day earlier, Tajik authorities said seven Tajik citizens were injured in a standoff started after local residents on both sides of the border clashed, throwing stones at each other.

The Tajik side also said the clashes had been instigated by Kyrgyz officials, which Bishkek rejected.

Many border areas in Central Asia's former Soviet republics have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with numerous incidents involving deadly gunfire.

The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan meet.

The latest outbreak of violence comes amid the installation by Tajik officials of surveillance equipment at the Golovnoi water distribution center that Kyrgyzstan says is located in an area where sovereignty has yet to be defined.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov issued a statement on Facebook calling for calm and for Kyrgyz citizens "to keep their patience and not to give in to provocations."

"With our Tajik brothers, we will always find common ground and solve all issues while preserving and taking into account neighborly interests on our ancient land. Those who try to ignite a conflict are dangerous. I call on all domestic political forces to be patient in such a complicated time for our nation," Japarov said in the statement.

The Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan expressed concerns over the rising tensions along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

"We call on the parties to immediately stop the clashes, undertake joint measures to stabilize the situation, and stay away from actions that could lead to a further escalation," the Uzbek Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Tashkent is ready to contribute to resolving the situation.

Earlier in April, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said during a visit to Tajikistan's Vorukh exclave within Kyrgyzstan that agreements on almost half of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border had been reached during more than 100 rounds of negotiations between Dushanbe and Bishkek since work on border delimitation started in 2002.

With reporting by AKIPress and Reuters