KYRGYZ, TAJIK TROOPS EXCHANGE FIRE AT CONTESTED BORDER

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Border guards from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan exchanged fire at their contested border, Kyrgyzstan's border service said Thursday, noting that the two countries had held talks to calm tensions.

Frontier communities in the two impoverished ex-Soviet Central Asian states regularly clash over land and water supplies, with border guards often involved.

The latest flare-up came after Tajik border guards advanced on a contested area at the border between Kyrgyzstan's Batken region and Tajikistan's Sughd region, Kyrgyzstan's border service said in a statement.

"Kyrgyzstan (border troops) did not allow the Tajikistan side to realise its intentions. As a result, a shootout began," Kyrgyzstan's border service said.

Forces were withdrawn from the site of the conflict after telephone talks between representatives of the two border services, it added.

Tajikistan, a closed, authoritarian country, did not immediately release a statement on the incident.

Almost half of the two countries' 970-kilometre (600-mile) border is disputed and progress on delimitation in recent years has been glacial.

Last year saw unprecedented clashes between the two militaries, leaving more than 50 people dead and raising fears of a wider conflict.

Source: National News Agency