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Kyrgyz Protesters Block Road From Uzbek Exclave

Soldiers guard the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Batken.

Soldiers guard the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near Batken.

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- About 500 residents of the town of Batken in southern Kyrgyzstan today blocked the main highway connecting an Uzbek exclave with Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protesters demanded security for Kyrgyz citizens crossing the Sokh exclave. They said that since May 26, about 10 Kyrgyz cars have been attacked and damaged by inhabitants of Khushiyar, a second Uzbek exclave in southern Kyrgyzstan.

The Uzbek authorities are reported to have sent hundreds of security forces, police, and military troops to Sokh over the weekend.

Sokh is one of the largest Uzbek exclaves in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Its population is primarily Tajik and Uzbek.

The Uzbek authorities closed the border with Kyrgyzstan after the mass unrest in Kyrgyzstan in April that toppled Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The border closure affected Uzbek citizens living in the Uzbek exclaves who use summer pastures on Kyrgyz territory outside those exclaves.

The local Kyrgyz authorities stopped allowing the residents of Sokh to use that pasture land, which led to clashes between the local population and Kyrgyz citizens traveling through the exclave.