Kyrgyzstan reports deaths after Uzbek border troops open fire

Uzbekistan says its troops were ‘forced to use weapons’ against men it described as smugglers.

A map showing Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
Border disagreements have dogged Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan throughout their 30-year independence [Al Jazeera]

Kyrgyzstan has reported the killing of three citizens after Uzbekistan’s troops opened fire at the disputed frontier of the two Central Asian countries.

The Kyrgyz National Security Committee did not say in Friday’s announcement whether the dead were civilians or border troops.

“Without regaining consciousness, they died from their gunshot wounds,” the statement said, adding that it had taken place on Thursday.

Later on Friday, Uzbekistan’s border service said in a statement that its troops were “forced to use weapons in the prescribed manner” against men that it described as “violators” carrying a “large consignment of goods” into Uzbek territory.

The men had tried to take possession of its border troops’ weapons, it said.

“As a result, three violators were wounded and their accomplices took them (back) to the territory of Kyrgyzstan,” the statement said, without mentioning that they later died.

Serious incident

It was the most serious incident to occur at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek frontier in recent years.

Both countries confirmed that their foreign ministers had spoken in a phone call on Friday.

“The parties stressed the need for joint efforts to avoid negative consequences in the border area, as well as to continue work to strengthen and expand Kyrgyz-Uzbek cooperation on the basis of friendship and good neighbourliness,” Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry said.

Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said the conversation between acting foreign minister Vladimir Norov and Kyrgyz counterpart Jeenbek Kulubayev had been “warm and friendly” and noted that a meeting between border service representatives had also taken place on Friday.

Smuggling is a common problem in the region, where border communities clash regularly over land for grazing animals and water resources.

Improved ties

Relations between the two neighbours had been poor but improved markedly after the death of long-ruling hardline Uzbek President Islam Karimov in 2016.

His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, went about mending Tashkent’s frayed ties with neighbours.

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan last year signed an agreement to resolve the border dispute, but the deal was not ratified after Kyrgyz citizens voiced dissatisfaction over terms that guaranteed the Uzbek side use of a reservoir located in Kyrgyzstan.

The most explosive conflict in Central Asia at present is at Kyrgyzstan’s border with Tajikistan, where several dozen people were killed following unprecedented clashes involving military units last year.

Source: News Agencies