Kyrgyz-Tajik Border Remains Tense Amid Cease-Fire Calls, Mounting Casualties

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The border area between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan remained tense, with a new cease-fire in place but amid accusations of shelling by both sides and mounting casualties.

After a relatively quiet period overnight, both sides on September 17 said border villages had been hit by shelling, with reports of additional people hurt on top of the dozens of deaths and injuries earlier claimed by the two Central Asian nations.

Tajik authorities late on September 17 said Kyrgyz forces opened fire with Grad missiles from the Jonoloy District of the Kyrgyz Osh region, aiming toward the Sayliobod rural community of the Lakhsh district of Tajikistan.

Officials said four people had been injured and three houses had been destroyed.

The report could not immediately be independently verified. If confirmed, the attack would appear to indicate a break in a cease-fire agreed to by both sides.

Several hours later, representatives of the two nations agreed on another cease-fire for the tense border areas, with officials saying the region remained “tense.”

Earlier in the day, Kyrgyz border guards said a village was briefly shelled by Tajik missiles.

The two former Soviet republics clashed over a border dispute this week, with dozens of casualties reported by both sides.

The Kyrgyz border guard service accused Tajik forces of using tanks, armored personnel carriers, and mortars. Tajikistan, in turn, accused Kyrgyz forces of bombarding an outpost and seven villages with “heavy weaponry” in the same area.

Border issues in Central Asia stem to a large extent from the Soviet era when Moscow tried to divide the region between ethnic groups whose settlements were often located amid those of other ethnicities.

Both countries still host Russian military bases, and Moscow again on September 16 called for a halt in the fighting.


Kyrgyzstan, which on September 16 reported 24 deaths and 87 wounded, said one border village was shelled by mortars for five minutes early on September 17 after an otherwise quiet night.

Kyrgyz hospitals and clinics also treated 129 people wounded in the shelling, authorities said.

Kyrgyzstan’s Emergencies Ministry on September 17 declared a state of emergency in the Batken region bordering Tajikistan. The ministry said the decision was taken to ensure the safety of the region’s residents and mobilize “certain forces.”

Kyrgyzstan’s Emergencies Ministry had earlier said that 140,000 people were evacuated from the area engulfed by the fighting.

Tajik border guards said on September 16 that several Tajik villages had been struck by Kyrgyz helicopters and drones.

In a statement on September 17, the border service said Kyrgyzstan continues the “deployment of additional military forces and means on the border.”

A senior official from the Tajik Ministry of Health, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that 23 civilians and eight military personnel had been killed on the Tajik side since September 14.

A member of the Tajik border guard and several witnesses told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that an additional eight people had been killed in the city of Isfara — six of them members of one family, including two women and three children. The report could not be independently verified.

In the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and in other cities, volunteers were gathering humanitarian aid and donating blood for people affected by the clashes.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a September 17 statement that it was concerned about the upsurge of military activities along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border and its humanitarian consequences.

“While conducting military operations, all feasible precautionary measures must be taken to avoid incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects,” Sangeeta Koenig , the head of the ICRC regional delegation in Central Asia, said, adding that “respecting international humanitarian law is an obligation of the parties to the armed conflict.

 

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