By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have agreed to a cease-fire and ordered their troops to withdraw from disputed border areas as reports of clashes involving heavy artillery that have left several dead continue to raise security concerns in Central Asia.
Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Erbol Sultanbaev said that President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, discussed the situation while attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in neighboring Uzbekistan on September 16.
They agreed to a cease-fire and said a joint commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the border should continue its work. Clashes over the poorly demarcated border are frequent, often flaring up and de-escalating quickly.
The agreement, however, did little to stop the violence that has seen at least three people killed and dozens wounded since fighting broke out two days ago.
“Violating the reached agreements, the Tajik side renewed gunfire at Kyrgyz border guards’ positions in the settlements of Kulundu and Jany-Jer in the Leilek district,” the Kyrgyz border service said, adding that the Tajiks used multiple-rocket launchers against positions in the Batken district.
Border issues in Central Asia stem to a large extent from the Soviet era, when Moscow tried to divide the region between ethnic groups whose settlements were often located amidst those of other ethnicities.
Both countries still host Russian military bases and Moscow again on September 16 called for a halt in the fighting.
The Kyrgyz border guard service has accused Tajik forces of using tanks, armored personnel carriers, and mortars.
It also said the Tajik side early on September 16 had shelled suburbs of the regional capital, Batken, and areas close to the city’s airport, damaging or fully destroying civil infrastructure.
A resident of the village of Dostuk in Kyrgyzstan’s Leilek district, Malik Mannanov, told RFE/RL that his 15-year-old daughter was killed by mortar shrapnel.
The Health Ministry confirmed the girl’s death and said the number of wounded during the latest clashes had reached 87 people.
The head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, said the Kyrgyz side suffered heavy losses but didn’t give any numbers.
The committee said earlier that Tajik troops occupied a school in Dostuk.
Tajikistan in turn accused Kyrgyz forces of bombarding an outpost and seven villages with “heavy weaponry” in the same area.
A civilian was killed and three injured, authorities in the Tajik city of Isfara said.
Kyrgyzstan reported 42 wounded in its southern Batken Province, which borders Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and features a Tajik exclave, Vorukh, a key hotspot in recent conflicts.
Tajikistan does not consider Vorukh an exclave, as it believes parts of the disputed segment of the border near it are Tajik territory.
The accounts could not be immediately verified.
Almost half of the 970-kilometer Kyrgyz-Tajik border has yet to be demarcated, leading to repeated tensions and sporadic deadly clashes since the two countries gained independence three decades ago.