MOSCOW – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan blamed Friday’s border fighting that left at least 24 people dead, dozens injured and prompted a mass evacuation.
The Kyrgyz Health Ministry said early Saturday morning that 24 bodies had been transferred to hospitals in the Batken region bordering Tajikistan. The ministry said an additional 87 people were injured.
The border clashes that began earlier this week turned into large-scale fighting on Friday involving tanks, artillery and rocket launchers. As part of the shelling, Tajik forces hit the regional capital, Batken, with rockets.
Kyrgyzstan’s Emergencies Ministry said 136,000 people had been evacuated from the area engulfed by the fighting.
It remains unclear what prompted the tense border fighting between the two former Soviet Central Asian neighbors. Attempts to establish a cease-fire quickly failed and shelling resumed later in the day.
The border police chiefs of the two countries met around midnight and agreed to form a joint monitoring group to help end hostilities. It remains unclear whether the meeting had any effect on the fighting.
In 2021, a dispute over water rights and the installation of surveillance cameras in Tajikistan led to clashes near the border that left at least 55 people dead.
According to the Kyrgyz border service, Friday’s fighting broke out in the early morning, when Tajik forces first opened fire on Kyrgyz border guards. As tensions rose, border authorities accused Tajikistan of using mortars, tanks and armored vehicles to bombard Kyrgyz positions, targeting an airport near the border with multiple rocket launchers and destroying them. civilian infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Tajik border officials allege that Kyrgyz forces have subjected villages on the Tajik border to “powerful shelling and mortar shelling” from “all kinds of weapons of all kinds.” existing heavy duty firearms and firearms”. The Tajik authorities say they have proposed talks and a ceasefire, but the Kyrgyz military is said to have ignored the offer.
The Kyrgyz border service later released a statement saying the two countries’ security leaders had agreed to cease hostilities starting at 4 p.m., but the armistice fell apart almost immediately.
The Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Sadyr Zhaparov and Emomali Rakhmon, met on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit 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 the withdrawal and cessation of fighting.
Kyrgyz media reported that Zhaparov had returned to Kyrgyzstan from the Uzbek city of Samarkand and immediately assembled the country’s Security Council for a meeting.