Scores dead in Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border clashes despite ceasefire


Kyrgyzstan announced on Sunday that 12 more people had been killed in border clashes with Tajikistan this week, amid an outbreak of fighting between the Central Asian countries. 

Sunday’s statement means the current death toll on the Kyrgyzstan side is at least 36, while Tajikistan has not provided exact figures of its dead. 

Clashes erupted around the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border on Friday, with both sides accusing one another of using tanks, mortars, rocket artillery and drones, at times against civilian settlements. 

A cease-fire was imposed later that day. It has held to some degree, though the two Central Asian countries have repeatedly claimed the other is violating the agreement. 

Border disputes have plagued the ex-Soviet republics since their independence from the USSR in the 90s. Nearly half of their 970-kilometre-long frontier is contested. 

The violence has happened in the Batken and Osh regions in southern Kyrgyzstan, bordering Tajikistan. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from these areas so far. 

In a separate report, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health said 134 people had been injured.

This serious outbreak of conflict is the worst since April 2021, when clashes between the two sides killed at least 50 people and raised the spectre of a wider war. 

On Sunday morning, Kyrgyz border guards said the night had passed “calmly, without incident,” although they said the situation on the frontier remained “tense.” 

“The leaders of the two countries are taking all necessary measures to stabilise the situation, stop all escalations and provocations (…) in a peaceful manner,” the guards added. 

International actors have called on the pair to de-escalate the situation and refrain from using violence. 

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres phoned officials from both sides, urging them “to foster dialogue for a lasting ceasefire”, according to a UN spokesperson. 

Tajikistan has been reticent about publishing casualty figures. On Saturday, the Tajik Interior Ministry said civilians had been killed in Tajikistan during the truce. Yet it did not specify how many. 

Two Tajik border guards were reportedly killed in intense fighting earlier in the week.

The decades-long fighting on the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border is set against a backdrop of the chaotic dissolution of the USSR, which both countries were in, and tensions over resource access.

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