Bishek, 11 August 2000 (RFE/RL) - Kyrgyzstan's Defense Ministry reports fighting in the south of the country this morning after militant rebels from neighboring Tajikistan crossed into the southern Batken province earlier today. The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry says a battle between government troops and the Islamic militants -- said to number 30 to 40 -- is now taking place.
Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topoev has left the capital, Bishkek, and gone to the region to take charge of the situation.
The militants are thought to be from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group which last year invaded southern Kyrgyzstan from bases in Tajik mountains. Just yesterday, Uzbek government forces clashed with the group in deadly battles near the Uzbek-Tajik border.