Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan report ‘heavy weapon’ use in border clash

Second outbreak of clashes in three days amid sudden rise in tensions along border between the two former Soviet republics.

A Kyrgyz soldier stands with a weapon at the disputed border in 2021
Skirmishes at the disputed border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is common [File: Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters]

Officials from the Kyrgyz border guard have accused Tajik forces of opening fire on several of its outposts in an escalation of tension two days after a brief confrontation between the two Central Asian nations.

The border guard said Kyrgyz forces were returning fire on Friday morning, as clashes took place along the length of the border, adding that Tajik forces were using tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and mortars. More than one-third of the 1,000km (600-mile) frontier remains disputed.

The Kyrgyz health ministry said later on Friday that at least 31 people were injured in the clashes.

In turn, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling one of its outposts and seven villages with “heavy weaponry”. A civilian was killed and three injured, authorities in the Tajik city of Isfara said.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon are both attending a regional security summit in Uzbekistan and appeared, together with a number of other leaders, in a group photo for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at a gala dinner on Thursday.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both former Soviet republics, host Russian military bases and have close ties with Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin is also attending the Samarkand summit.

Skirmishes over the border are frequent and usually de-escalate quickly, although last year they almost led to an all-out war.

The leaders of the SCO Summit gather around golden plates of desserts
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov (second right) and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (second left) are currently attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand [Sultan Dosaliev/Kyrgyz Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

On Wednesday, Russia called on the two countries to take urgent measures to bring the situation on the border under control.

The latest flare-up in hostilities comes against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where it is facing a rapid counteroffensive that has forced its troops out of the northeastern Kharkiv region, and renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies