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River Blockage Sparks Skirmish on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

Skirmishes sparked by a territorial dispute between residents along the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border escalated on August 4, leaving several people injured and damaging multiple homes.

News website Asia-Plus cited Tajik officials as saying Kyrgyz border guards were actively engaged in the disturbances and deployed firearms. Kyrgyzstan promptly denied that accusation, but confirmed that shots were indeed fired, possibly from a shotgun.

The area at the focus of this and much previous unrest lies on the jagged frontier where the east of Tajikistan’s Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan’s Batken province meet.

Kyrgyzstan’s border service said the trouble began on August 3 after crowds on the Tajik side blocked a road passing through the village of Maiskoe, which is used by Kyrgyz residents from the village of Kok-Tash to reach a local cemetery.

“In protest, Kyrgyz citizens blocked the water in a canal that flows into the Tajik village of Chorku,” the border service said in a statement.

The account from Tajikistan, as told by a border service source to Asia-Plus, flips around the sequence. Tajik villagers barred the road to the cemetery because the flow of the river was stemmed, the source said.

Either way, given the value of the river in an otherwise highly barren region, it is likely that depriving a large village of water was what escalated the stakes.

Kyrgyz officials say around 120 Tajiks and 80 Kyrgyz were involved in the first day’s violence, which they say left five Kyrgyz citizens injured and damaged seven homes and a car.

Authorities had hoped tensions might dissipate, but they only appear to have intensified overnight.

Local media reported 500 people on each side being involved in the fresh clashes. 

Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement, cited by CA-News, that Kyrgyz mobs attacked a Tajik village with Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles.

“As a result, six citizens of Tajikistan were wounded. Two of them have been hospitalized in a grave condition,” the statement said.

The statement went on to accuse Kok-Tash village council head Raziya Osorova of whipping up the unrest with a view to absorbing territory into Kyrgyzstan.

The office of Kyrgyz prime minister Temir Sariev said he broke off a brief holiday to monitor events.

This particular location has been a regular hotspot for violent confrontations between ethnically distinct communities living in uneasy neighborhood.

The two countries have been unable to agree on the location of the border they inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. They have delimited only about half of the 971 kilometers. As the population in the dense Ferghana Valley grows, it has become increasingly difficult to demarcate the contested sections, where valuable agricultural land often lies. The mounting violence, which fans nationalist passions on both sides, does not help.

As Asia-Plus explains by way of background, Tajikistan suggests agreeing to a delimitation established in documents dating back to 1924-27, while Kyrgyzstan insists on a 1958 agreement. The latter arrangement was at the time approved by the Kyrgyz government, but not Tajikistan’s Supreme Soviet.

Story updated to reflect renewed unrest.

River Blockage Sparks Skirmish on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border

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