Border Violence Broadens Tension in Ferghana
Recent violence on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border may vindicate those predicting that Islamic militants could spill over the Ferghana Valley’s porous borders. It could also deepen tension between the valley’s three squabbling governments. In Tajikistan’s Charku village, authorities have been battling militants they call members of the extremist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al-Qaeda affiliate, killing three and arresting one on October 29, Avesta.tj reports.After two months of militant activity in Tajikistan, the latest fighting is unusual because it has happened in the de facto no man’s land between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There is no clear border between what the Kyrgyz call Kok-Tash and the Tajiks Charku; the frontier zigzags between homes in the ethnically mixed settlement with Tajiks and Kyrgyz laying claims to each other’s territory. (Contrary to some media reports, Charku is not a Tajik enclave, but a peninsula of contiguous Tajik land pointing into Kyrgyzstan.) Early in 2009, border guards from both countries withdrew from the disputed area, locals reported at the time, in an attempt to ease tensions. The renewed fighting and security presence could provoke ethnic discord between residents, who proved not too fond of each other when EurasiaNet.org visited last year. Kyrgyz authorities say they have everything under control, reports RFE/RL, after they moved 15 Kyrgyz families from the village deeper into Batken Province. Moving families may help define the boundary, 50 percent of which remained undefined in 2009, a Kyrgyz border official said at the time. No doubt, extremists operate in the Ferghana Valley. But expect these events to be a handy excuse for future crackdowns on perceived adversaries in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and in the valley’s chief paranoiac, Uzbekistan.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.