Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan: Border Skirmish Leaves At Least One Guard Dead
At least one Uzbek border guard was killed in a clash with his Kyrgyz counterparts on July 23. But that’s about all the local media on both sides of the frontier agree on. Officials from the hostile neighbors are presenting differing accounts of the skirmish, including where it occurred.Tashkent’s 12news.uz website describes a “provocation” on a farm in Namangan Region at around 9:30 a.m. Uzbek time (10:30 a.m. in Kyrgyzstan), when two Uzbek patrolmen tried to stop several “drunk” Kyrgyz guards armed with machine guns who had "intruded" onto Uzbekistan's territory. When the Uzbek guards tried to approach their Kyrgyz colleagues to "explain the seriousness of the situation," the latter opened fire without warning, killing one on the spot and seriously wounding the other in the chest. "Having finished their dirty job, the Kyrgyz bandits left our country," 12news.uz said. The Uzbek Border Service found spent shells about 100 meters into Uzbek territory, the website said, adding that the second guard died in hospital. Kyrgyz officials present a different account, of Kyrgyz border guards protecting the homeland from Uzbek intruders. "Kyrgyz border guards involved in a shootout with Uzbek border guards were on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic and were absolutely sober as confirmed by medical examination," said the Kyrgyz Border Service in a statement published by Bishkek's AKIpress news agency. According to the Kyrgyz version, "weapons were first used by a border detail of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which intruded onto the territory of Kyrgyzstan." The Kyrgyz called on their counterparts to refrain from "sweeping accusations" until a probe is completed.Since independence in 1991, the two countries have been unable to agree where large sections of their 1100-kilometer border lies, especially in the densely populated Fergana Valley. Fueling tensions, Tashkent and Bishkek are at loggerheads over Kyrgyz plans to build a large hydropower dam on the Naryn River upstream. Shootings are common. Last month, Uzbek border guards shot dead a Kyrgyz national suspected of smuggling. And earlier this year, after Uzbek nationals allegedly attacked Kyrgyz guards for placing electricity poles on contested territory, an ethnically tinged standoff involving roadblocks and hostages lasted for weeks. In apparent retaliation, Tashkent closed its border with Kyrgyzstan and blocked rail shipments.