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Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan trade blame for cross-border shelling

MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan traded blame Thursday for cross-border shelling and clashes that have left more than a dozen people injured in the latest outburst of tensions between the two ex-Soviet Central Asian neighbours.

Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Committee said Tajik troops fired mortar shells and machine-guns around a water reservoir in the village of Kok-Tash in the western Batken region near the border with Tajikistan.

Marufkhan Tulayev, a deputy governor of the Batken region, said four people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after the shelling, according to the Interfax news agency. Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry eight people were hospitalized, including some with gunshot wounds.

In the footage released by Kyrgyz media, Kyrgyz men were seen taking cover as automatic gunfire rang out.

A large part of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border has remained unmarked, fueling fierce disputes over water, land and pastures. Kyrgyz and Tajik delegations have held several rounds of talks in recent years but have failed to end the controversy.

Tajikistan’s National Security Committee, meanwhile, said Kyrgyz troops were the first to open fire on the Tajik border guards and accused Kyrgyzstan of trying to forcefully take over the area, which Tajikistan sees as part of its territory.

It said seven Tajiks were injured by stones hurled by the Kyrgyz.

Kyrgyz authorities said the conflict erupted Wednesday, when Tajik officials attempted to mount surveillance cameras to monitor the water reservoir and the Kyrgyz side opposed the move.

Both nations have claimed the area around the water reservoir, a dispute dating back decades when they were part of the Soviet Union.

The Associated Press