Kyrgyzstan says thousands killed, thousands displaced on the border between Tajikistan

Kyrgyzstan said on Friday that the number of deaths in armed clashes with Central Asian rival Tajikistan had reached 13, after the couple agreed on a ceasefire after the worst fighting along their disputed border in several years.

The Kyrgyz Ministry of Health said in a statement that it had suffered 134 deaths “including 13 deaths”, two of which were injured in a serious condition.

A girl born in 2008 was among the fatal accidents, it is said.

Over ten thousand civilians had been evacuated from two districts bordering Tajikistan where the fighting had been most intense, Kyrgyzstan said.

The government of Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region – which borders Tajikistan – said its citizens had been “placed in specially organized places” in its administrative center, “or went to visit relatives”.

Military units from the two countries began exchanging fire on Thursday, but later that day a ceasefire was announced by the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry from 20.00 (1400 GMT), with armed forces returning to their bases.

Tajikistan acknowledged the ceasefire in a statement released by its state intelligence service early Friday, saying the two sides “agreed to end the armed conflict, withdraw personnel and military equipment to permanent deployment sites.”

A representative of the police in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region told AFP by telephone that the shooting had continued during the night “but not intensively”.

Shots were fired “between both military units and civilians,” he said.

The conflicts that erupted along the border between the two poor, mountainous countries were the heaviest in several years and had raised fears that they might escalate into a broader conflict.

More than a third of their border is disputed, with the area around the Tajik enclave Vorukh, where Thursday’s conflict erupted, a common hotspot over territorial claims and access to water.

Tajikistan, a closed authoritarian state, made fewer statements as the clashes unfolded, noting only earlier on Thursday that two citizens had been hospitalized, with one in serious condition.

Its security committee accused Kyrgyz soldiers of opening fire on Tajik troops at the Golovnaya water distribution point, located on the Isfara River.

It said Kyrgyz and Tajik civilians had been involved in a river infrastructure dispute on Wednesday.

Border agreements between the three countries that share the fertile Fergana Valley – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – stem from Soviet-era demarcations.

The closed, twisting borders left several communities with limited access to their home countries.

Uzbekistan, the most populous country in the region, offered on Thursday to help mediate the conflict.

Russia, a strategic ally of the two rivals, said it was monitoring the conflict.