Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Sign Truce As Over 20 Killed And 200 Injured

Rahim Huseynli Feature 30 April 2021
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Sign Truce As Over 20 Killed And 200 Injured

Two central Asian countries have agreed to cease, following the armed clashes between the Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards on 28-29 April.

A ceasefire agreement was signed in the night of 29 April, by the chairman of the Tajik State Committee on National Security, Saymumin Yatimov, and the Kyrgyz governor in Batken Region, Omurbek Suvanaliyev.  The sides had agreed to "pull servicemen and military hardware back to the place of their permanent deployment" and "take measures to prevent the escalation of the tension". 

"Following talks between the Kyrgyz and Tajik foreign ministries, an agreement has been reached on a complete cease-fire from 20:00 local time [on 29 April] and withdrawal of troops to their former places of deployment," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement

A stone-pelting incident broke out between Kyrgyz and Tajik citizens on 28 April near Golovnoy, a water intake facility located in a disputed border area. The conflict continued on 29 April, with shootings and explosions reported in the area. Kyrgyzstan's Border Service has said that Kyrgyz troops seized a Tajik border outpost today in response to attacks by Tajik servicemen on five Kyrgyz outposts along the border.

The Kyrgyz border guards said that Tajikistan had been installing video cameras in the disputed area and that Kyrgyz border troops, police officers and later local residents started demanding the removal of the cameras. Both sides gathered for talks, but after failing to come to an agreement, some 100-150 local residents got involved in the pelting incident, which reportedly led to one Kyrgyz sustaining an injury. 

The clash then developed into an exchange of fire between the border troops of the conflicting sides. Kyrgyz troops seized a Tajik border outpost in response to attacks by Tajik servicemen on five Kyrgyz outposts along the border. The conflict claimed 23 lives on both sides.

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry reported 134 casualties among the Kyrgyz, including 13 deaths, while Tajik news website Asia-Plus quoted "sources" as saying that over 90 Tajiks were injured and 10 died in the armed clashes. 

Despite the ceasefire agreement, houses and other buildings in several Kyrgyz villages came under fire and arson attacks allegedly committed by Tajik citizens. 

Burul Kudaybergenova, a resident of the district's village of Maksat said that some 16 houses were set on fire, and added that "the military unit in Maksat was burned down completely. The residents managed to escape. First we came under gunfire attack, and now they have surrounded the village and are setting fire to our houses. Tajik servicemen and citizens are roving about Maksat".

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan share 971 km of common border, 451 km of which remain undefined. Poor demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border has led to a number of clashes since the two countries became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The confrontation began in a fashion now familiar to the area of Kyrgyzstan wedged between the Tajik mainland and the Dushanbe-controlled exclave of Vorukh, although the sides differ over who is to blame. At least four people were killed on 16 September, 2019 in clashes on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Signs of a possible imminent confrontation have been evident for weeks now. A war of words was triggered in late March when the head of the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiyev, proposed in provocative fashion that Tajikistan should yield Vorukh, a fertile exclave surrounded by some of the most barren land in Kyrgyzstan, in exchange for a parcel of territory from the Batken region.

Some days after Tashiyev made his remarks, Kyrgyzstan held military exercises in its Batken region. Fully 2,000 soldiers, 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers and around 20 units of self-propelled artillery were involved in the drill.