Kyrgyz, Tajik forces clash in water row

·2-min read

At least one civilian has reportedly been killed and dozens of people wounded when Kyrgyz and Tajik security forces exchanged fire across the border and residents hurled rocks at each other in a fight over a water reservoir.

The frontier, dating to the Soviet era, is poorly demarcated and minor border disputes between the two countries are frequent.

The latest quarrel quickly escalated beyond the usual scale as border guards on both sides actively joined the fighting.

One Kyrgyz border outpost was on fire after a Tajik mortar attack while Kyrgyz forces retaliated by capturing a Tajik outpost, Kyrgyz border guards said.

Hundreds of people have been relocated from adjacent villages.

Clashes flared late on Wednesday along the frontier between Tajikistan's northern Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken province because of a dispute over a water reservoir and pumping station, claimed by both sides, on the Isfara river.

Residents on both sides threw rocks at each other before clashes escalated and the sides began exchanging gunfire on Thursday, according to the security agencies of both countries.

Videos shared on social media showed people on the Kyrgyz side sitting in a trench to the sound of gunfire in the background.

Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

Kyrgyzstan's State National Security Committee accused the Tajik side of using mortars to shell the disputed water facility.

Tajik authorities said the facility belonged to them and accused Kyrgyz forces of shooting at Tajik border guards.

Kyrgyzstan reported one civilian killed and 31 people including two soldiers wounded.

Tajikistan reported nine people wounded without giving a breakdown of civilians and troops.

Tajikistan also accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling a bridge with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov's office said he had held an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday and set up a working group to settle the conflict.

In a statement, Japarov urged calm and said: "We will always find a common language with our Tajik brothers".

Separately, his cabinet said that Kyrgyz and Tajik prime ministers would discuss the matter on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting in Russia which they were both attending on Thursday.