ASTANA -- A group of Kazakh hikers missing since last week has been detained by Uzbek officials and charged with illegally crossing the border and arms smuggling, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov said in Astana on July 28 that the Uzbek authorities confiscated a rifle from one of the detained Kazakhs.
Uzbek police said they have launched an investigation and the Kazakh Embassy in Tashkent is trying to arrange the group's return to Kazakhstan.
There are three adults and nine teenagers among the hikers. Omarov told journalists the Uzbek authorities said they will not release them before the end of the month.
The group, which is from Kazakhstan's southern city of Shymkent, set out on July 10 to explore the Tian Shan Mountains in southern Kazakhstan. When they did not return home on July 20 as planned, their relatives alerted the local authorities and a search operation was launched.
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