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Altercation Temporarily Blocks Highway At Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- Dozens of Tajik and Kyrgyz citizens temporarily blocked the cross-border Osh-Isfara highway today after an incident at a Kyrgyz border station, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz and Tajik Services report.

Kyrgyz border guards at a crossing in the southern district of Batken say that several Tajik nationals refused to obey Kyrgyz border guards and tried to force them onto Tajik territory.

A Tajik official gave a different account of the incident.

Nematboi Olimov, a member of the Isfara district council, told RFE/RL that Kyrgyz border guards stopped a truck and demanded a bribe from the Tajik driver.

When he refused to pay, the border guards tried to impound his truckload of goods which the driver and his friends were transporting to Tajikistan's Vorukh exclave, which lies within Kyrgyzstan.

Olimov said the truck driver used his mobile phone to tell his friends in Tajikistan what had happened, and that Tajiks on the Tajik side of the border then intercepted three Kyrgyz trucks.

They said they would let the trucks proceed only after their compatriot's truck was allowed to continue its journey through Kyrgyz territory to Vorukh, Olimov said.

An RFE/RL correspondent reports that Kyrgyz security officers took up positions between the protesting Kyrgyz and Tajiks to prevent a violent confrontation.

The standoff was resolved after Batken Governor Khaitali Aikynov and Isfara Governor Subkhomidin Ashurov came to the border for talks.

The protesters dispersed after the Tajik truck was allowed to proceed to Vorukh, but Kyrgyz authorities confiscated the Tajik driver's documents. Local officials will meet on April 8 to discuss the incident.