Kyrgyzstan accuses Tajik forces of shelling airport

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Kyrgyzstan’s border guard service accused Tajik forces of shelling an airport in the town of Batken and adjacent areas with rocket artillery on Friday, a fresh escalation in the former Soviet republic’s border conflict.

Earlier on Friday, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan accused each other ay of using tanks and mortars in the escalating border conflict that has killed at least three people and injured 27 since fighting broke out two days ago.

Kyrgyzstan’s border guard service said Tajik forces once again opened fire on several of its outposts early on Friday in a disputed mountainous frontier area. It said the Tajik forces used tanks, armored personnel carriers and mortars.

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In turn, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling an outpost and seven villages with “heavy weaponry” in the same area, which is famous for its jigsaw-puzzle political and ethnic geography and became the site of similar hostilities last year, almost leading to a war.

A civilian was killed and three injured, authorities in the Tajik city of Isfara said. Kyrgyzstan reported 31 wounded overnight in its southern Batken province which borders Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and features a Tajik exclave, Vorukh, a key hotspot in recent conflicts.

Kyrgyz authorities said they were evacuating nearby villages as “intense fighting” raged on.

Kyrgyz and Tajik foreign ministers have discussed the matter, the Bishkek government said, but the border guard service said two ceasefire agreements have already failed.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon are both attending a regional security summit in
Uzbekistan and neither mentioned the conflict in their speeches at the event.

Clashes over the poorly demarcated border between the two former Soviet republics are frequent, but usually de-escalate quickly, although last year they almost led to an all-out war.

Both host Russian military bases and have close ties with Moscow, which urged a cessation of hostilities this week.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led security bloc of which Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are members, said its leadership was in touch with both governments on Friday.

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