At Least 31 Killed in Deadly Fighting on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Border
LAHORE MIRROR (Monitoring Desk)– At least 31 people have been killed, scores injured and 10,000 evacuated after a water dispute led to some of the worst clashes in years on a disputed Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border.
Clashes started on Wednesday when people from both sides hurled stones at each other after surveillance cameras were installed at a water facility.
A truce and troop pull-back were agreed but some shooting appeared to continue.
The casualty figures were from the Kyrgyz side with Tajik numbers unclear.
Kyrgyzstan’s health minister Aliza Soltonbekova said in a televised briefing that 31 people had been killed and more than 150 wounded since the violence began on Thursday.
According to the Kyrgyz figures on evacuations and casualties, a young girl was among the dead.
The governor of Batken province in Kyrgyzstan said the two sides had agreed that the water surveillance equipment should be removed, but that Tajikistan then refused.
Reports said border guards became involved after the initial clashes intensified. Military units from both sides began exchanging fire on Thursday, but later that day a ceasefire was announced to take effect from 20:00 (14:00 GMT), with armed forces returning to their bases.
A representative of the police in Batken told the AFP news agency by telephone that shooting had continued during the night “but not intensively”. Shooting occurred “between both military units and civilians”, he said.
On Friday, Tajikistan acknowledged the ceasefire in a statement published by its state information service. But the state has so far acknowledged no casualties or damages from the violence.
What is the background?
The fighting has focused on water facilities in territory claimed by both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Like many parts of Central Asia, the border between the two countries has been a focus of tension for the past 30 years.
Before that, it mattered little which bit of territory belonged to whom as people could move freely between Soviet Republics. But the collapse of the USSR generated hard borders – and potential violence.
The meandering boundary between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is particularly tense as over a third of its 1,000-km (600-mile) length is disputed. Restrictions on access to land and water that communities regard as theirs have often led to deadly clashes in the past.
The latest fighting was the heaviest in years and has raised fears of a wider conflict between two impoverished neighbours.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS