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Kyrgyz, Tajik Guards Injured In Border Clash

The cause of the January 11 shooting wasn't immediately clear, but tensions have been high in the region for years amid a series of territorial disputes.
BISHKEK -- Officials say five Kyrgyz border guards, one Kyrgyz policeman, and two Tajik border guards have been hospitalized with injuries after tensions escalated into exchanges of gunfire along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.

Reports indicate an argument broke out between the Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards when the Tajik guards demanded Kyrgyz construction workers halt work on a road in a disputed area of the two countries' border.

Nematboy Olimov, the head of the Chorkuh council in Tajikistan's Isfara district, provided this version of events to RFE/RL's Tajik Service.

The Kyrgyz border guards "brought seven machines and started working and made people angry. Yesterday, they said that they would not continue construction and no machines would be here but they did not fulfill their promise and destabilized the situation," Olimov said.

"They started shooting first, using snipers. They hit one of our soldiers and forced our troops to respond."

The head of border protection in Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Province, Adybek Nabiev, said the Tajik side created the problem and started the shooting.

"Around 1 p.m. a disturbance began and we sent additional forces. The gunfire has stopped and border guards from both sides are having talks," Nabiev said.

"Tajik border guards came up to our water-distribution station and [the Kyrgyz and Tajiks] started to argue. Then the Tajik head of special forces opened fire and our commander of forces was shot in the stomach."

Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security matters Tokon Mamytov said Tajik border guards also fired mortars and grenade launchers at the Kyrgyz guards. Mamytov said fragment of the shells and one unexploded shell were found at the scene of the violence.

Exchange Of Fire, Versions

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev said he had sent a note of protest to Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry over the incident.

Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry released a statement later in the day that blamed the Kyrgyz side for starting the problem.

The Tajik statement said the incident started when Kyrgyz workers "using armed cover of soldiers" started doing work on a road, "part of which passes through Tajikistan."

The Tajik statement continued that some 20 Kyrgyz soldiers started screaming insults at the Tajiks, then "without warning unleashed a barrage of fire" at the Tajik border guards.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have ordered senior officials to conduct a joint investigation of the incident.

Tensions have been high in the region for years amid a series of territorial disputes.

The road that zigzags in and out of Kyrgyz and Tajikistan territories in the area of the shooting was only reopened a few days ago after a cafe and house were burned down in a Kyrgyz village and locals closed the road in protest.

The Kyrgyz construction machines were in that area on January 11 to build a detour around Tajik territory.

Ill-defined borders have led to regional tensions since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kyrgyz and Tajik officials have met several times in recent weeks to discuss measures to alleviate tensions along their common border, including a prohibition on using weapons during the daytime and an agreement to jointly patrol disputed areas of their border regions.