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Shooting Deaths Reportedly Rise On Uzbek-Kyrgyz Border

Some claim the Uzbek security services are themselves involved in smuggling and are in effect protecting their monopoly rather than the border.
Uzbek border guards have shot dead at least 13 people who were crossing into Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken region in the past two months, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Uzbek officials told RFE/RL that security services are only firing on people who illegally cross the border and smugglers who disregard orders from border guards.

Khurshidbek Tursunov, deputy head of the Ferghana district, told RFE/RL that the people crossing the border were the ones who should be blamed for the deadly incidents, not the border guards.

"We have repeatedly explained that bypassing the border checkpoints or smuggling goods is banned," Tursunov said.

Security along the border was stepped up almost two months ago, when the number of deadly shootings increased.

The incidents involving shooting deaths occurred in at least four villages close to the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border: Chimyon, Halmiyon, Mindon, and Vodil.

Muzaffar Shodmonov, 22, was shot dead and two of his companions wounded last week as they were bringing goods over the border from a nearby bazaar in Kyrgyzstan.

His father, Sharof Shodmonov, told RFE/RL that his son's business was to bring foodstuffs and other consumer goods to local bazaars in Uzbekistan.

Shodmonov said that the security services were themselves involved in smuggling and were in effect protecting their monopoly rather than the border.

Dangerous Trade

For years people along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek have engaged in cross-border trade despite the government's efforts to curtail uncontrolled trade.

The Uzbek government imposes high customs fees for imported goods, which traders believe makes them too expensive for local consumers and leads many people to avoid the border checkpoints.

Analysts say that under the pretext of protecting the domestic market and curtailing illegal imports, the trade in goods in Uzbekistan has become centralized and is controlled by criminal groups.

The Abu-Sahiy company, which is allegedly controlled by President Islam Karimov's youngest daughter, Lola Karimova, is one of the biggest importers of consumer goods from China to Uzbekistan.