Kyrgyz, Tajik Forces Exchange Fire in Worst Border Flare-Up in Years
Story Code : 929992
Health officials in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region said on Thursday that one person died from gunshots wounds and more than 30 others, including two soldiers, were injured in the clashes.
“The situation on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border has got out of control. Gunfire is still going on at this time. Troops are shooting,” Interfax news agency quoted Marufkhan Tulayev, the deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region, as saying.
Tajikistan said at least nine people were injured without giving a breakdown of civilians and soldiers.
Media reports said the initial clashes amid a dispute over water resources erupted late Wednesday along the frontier between Tajikistan's northern Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan's Batken province. The water facility and pumping station on the Isfara river is claimed by both sides.
Local residents threw rocks at each other before clashes escalated and the sides began exchanging gunfire on Thursday.
Kyrgyzstan's national security committee said in a statement that its troops seized the border post belonging to Tajikistan after heavy shelling from Tajik forces set a Kyrgyz border post on fire.
"Additional forces and assets are being mobilized on both sides along the entire perimeter of the Kyrgyz-Tajik state border," the statement read.
The committee also accused the Tajik side of using mortars to shell the disputed water facility.
Tajik authorities said the water reservoir belonged to them and accused Kyrgyz forces of shooting at Tajik border guards. They also accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling a bridge with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Reacting to the development, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov held an emergency cabinet meeting and set up a working group to settle the conflict.
Kyrgyzstan later said that it had reached a ceasefire agreement with Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry said in a statement that a "complete ceasefire" had been agreed from 8:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Thursday, with military forces returning to bases.
Kyrgyz and Tajik prime ministers would also discuss the matter on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting in Russia which they were both attending on Thursday.
The frontier between the two Central Asian nations, dating to the Soviet era, is poorly demarcated and minor border disputes between the two countries are frequent.
The two neighbors have been locked in border disputes for decades and there have been sporadic clashes along the frontier for years. But the latest outbreak of fighting involving their two militaries was rare and raised fears of the clashes escalating into a wider conflict.