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Deadly clashes renewed on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border

Kyrgyzstan accused neighbouring Tajikistan of firing at its border guards Friday evening, hours after the security chiefs of the two countries agreed on a ceasefire.

Presidents of both countries met Friday at Uzbekistan summit to discuss fighting

A still image from video, released by the Kyrgyzstan border guard service on Friday, shows what it said is an active military confrontation as seen from an unidentified location in the Batken region, Kyrgyzstan. (Kyrgyz Border Guard Service/Reuters)

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan traded blame for fighting on the border Friday that killed at least two people, wounded dozens and prompted a mass evacuation.

Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry said the clashes that erupted early Friday had caused two deaths, including a 15-year-old girl, and left 87 people wounded, most of whom were hospitalized.

Kyrgyzstan's Emergencies Ministry said 136,000 people were extricated from the area engulfed by the fighting.

It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the fighting on the tense border between the two former Soviet Central Asian neighbours. An attempt to establish a cease-fire quickly failed and artillery shelling resumed later in the day.

In 2021, a dispute over water rights and the installation of surveillance cameras by Tajikistan led to clashes near the border that killed at least 55 people.

In this May 2021 photo, Kyrgyz soldiers are seen outside the village of Kok-Tash near the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border in southwestern Kyrgyzstan. (Vladimir Voronin/The Associated Press)

According to the Kyrgyz border service, Friday's fighting erupted early in the morning, when Tajik forces first fired at Kyrgyz border guards. As tensions mounted, the border service accused Tajikistan of using mortars, tanks and armoured vehicles to shell Kyrgyzstan's positions, targeting an airport near the border with multiple rocket launchers and destroying civilian infrastructure.

Tajik border officials, meanwhile, charged that the Kyrgyz forces subjected Tajik border villages "to intensive mortar bombardment and shelling" from "all types of available heavy weapons and firearms." Tajik authorities said they proposed negotiations and a ceasefire, but Kyrgyz troops reportedly ignored the offers.

The Kyrgyz border service later reported in a statement that the two countries' security chiefs agreed to cease the hostilities starting from 4 p.m. local time, but the truce failed almost immediately.

The presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Sadyr Zhaparov and Emomali Rakhmon, met Friday at the summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization in Uzbekistan. According to a statement on Zhaparov's website, the two leaders discussed the border situation and agreed to task the relevant authorities with pulling back troops and stopping the fighting.

Kyrgyz media reported that Zhaparov returned to Kyrgyzstan from the Uzbek city of Samarkand and immediately gathered the country's Security Council for a meeting.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov, left, and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon attend a meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Friday. (Sultan Dosaliev/Kyrgyz Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

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