a ceasefire announced after “intense clashes” at the border

a ceasefire announced after “intense clashes” at the border
A group photo of participants at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Sept. 16, 2022.

Kyrgyzstan announced a ceasefire with Tajikistan on Friday (September 16th) from 4 p.m. local time (12 p.m. Paris time), the Kyrgyz Border Guard Service reported in a statement, after clashes on the border between these two Central Asian countries which caused more than thirty injuries.

Earlier in the day, Kyrgyzstan accused Tajikistan of having bombarded a border town on Friday, September 16 with heavy weapons. If clashes regularly take place on the border between these two former Soviet republics entangled for years in a territorial dispute, this violence marks a notable aggravation.

The escalation comes as the leaders of the two countries, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, are currently attending a regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan. They even appeared together in a group photo on Thursday night.

According to Bishkek, Tajik forces on Friday shelled the border town of Batken, located in southwestern Kyrgyzstan, in an area disputed by the two countries. “The surroundings of Batken airport and the [lieux] located on the outskirts of town came under fire from multiple rocket launcher systems. Civilian infrastructure in the town of Batken was destroyed”Kyrgyz border guards said in a statement.

For its part, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health announced that thirty-one people had been hospitalized on Friday, according to an updated report which is growing rapidly. At least four soldiers were victims of “gun wounds”according to regional authorities.

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“Intense clashes”

The State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan reported that “intense clashes” and “violent” were taking place in the border area, accusing Tajikistan of “bombard Kyrgyz territory with all its available arsenal” and continue to deploy “heavy equipment”.

He reported the use of “heavy armor, multiple rocket launchers and aviation” by Tajikistan. “All land and air attacks find their response from the Kyrgyz side, which prevents any capture of territory”he added.

Tajikistan, for its part, accused Kyrgyz forces of having opened fire early Friday on Tajik border posts, without immediately reporting casualties in its ranks. Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that a Tajik border guard was killed and three border guards were injured. This report has not been confirmed by official sources.

Flight of civilians, opening of reception centers

According to Kyrgyz diplomacy, the foreign ministers of the two countries met to try to end the clashes. The inhabitants of several border villages have fled the combat zone, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Emergency Situations has also reported, announcing the opening of reception centers.

“We call on both parties to take comprehensive and urgent measures to (…) put an end to all attempts at escalation and provocations by third parties”the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Earlier this week, clashes between the two countries left two dead in the ranks of Tajik border guards and several injured on both sides. The border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is the scene of regular deadly clashes.

Nearly half of the 970 km border is disputed and progress on demarcation has been slow in recent years. The year 2021 has seen an unprecedented number of clashes between the two sides, leaving more than fifty dead and raising fears of the widening of the conflict.

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The World with AFP

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