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Kyrgyz Border Guard Service Says Renewed Clashes Prevented Near Uzbek Exclave

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz border authorities say they have prevented a renewed outbreak of clashes near an Uzbek exclave inside Kyrgyz territory.

Zamir Miizaev, the chief of the Border Guard Directorate in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region, told RFE/RL on May 5 that tensions near the border have been rising due to a dispute around irrigation water usage.

Kyrgyz border guards fired warning gunshots on May 1 to prevent possible violence, he said.

Many border areas in Central Asian former Soviet republics have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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

One such exclave is Sokh, an ethnic Tajik-populated Uzbek territory within Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, where shootings have been common for years.

In 2013, border crossings through Sokh were closed for several weeks after Sokh residents clashed with Kyrgyz border guards over the installation of electric power lines to a new Kyrgyz border post.

Five Sokh residents were reportedly wounded by Kyrgyz border guards and at least 30 Kyrgyz citizens were subsequently taken hostage then.

In July 2019, Tajik officials said one Tajik man was killed and seven more wounded after Kyrgyz villagers used hunting guns in violence that erupted over the move by Tajik residents to install Tajik national flags on the Isfara-Vorukh road near Tajikistan's Vorukh exclave inside Kyrgyzstan.

Officials in the Batken region temporarily moved more than 650 residents from the village of Ak-Sai from the area for safety and security reasons in the days following the clashes.