Clash Reported on Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border
January 07, 2013
Tensions between the main ethnic groups of the Ferghana Valley flared again over the weekend, rekindling memories of clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010 that left hundreds dead and injured and caused widespread property damage.
Residents of the Uzbek enclave of Soh in southern Kyrgyzstan reportedly attacked Kyrgyz border guards and took Kyrgyz citizens hostage on January 5.
The incident reportedly started when Kyrgyz border guards were overseeing the installation of power lines to a newly constructed border post near the village of Charbak.
Residents of the Soh enclave village of Hoshyar reportedly attacked the border guards and the post.
Kyrgyz border guards fired into the air to disperse them.
On January 6, a group of residents from Soh returned and took six residents of the village of Charbak back into Soh as hostages.
At least seven others were captured while driving through the Uzbek enclave when the unrest broke out.
Russia's Interfax news agency cited witnesses to the events as saying, "At the start there were more than 100 [Uzbek citizens], but their numbers grew…"
The Kyrgyz newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" early on January 7 reported the crowd eventually numbered more than 1,000 people.
The Uzbek citizens reportedly tried to seize weapons from the Kyrgyz border guards.
AKIpress reported several Kyrgyz border guards were injured in the clashes.
The same witnesses said the Uzbek citizens "threw stones at the guard post, broke windows, and seized more than a dozen vehicles of Kyrgyz citizens and took the passengers hostage."
At least four vehicles belonging to Kyrgyz citizens were reported torched and a bus with Kyrgyz citizens that was passing through Soh at the time was vandalized and its passengers taken hostage.
Russian news agency Interfax reported 13 hostages were being kept at the hospital in Hoshyar.
The newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" reported on January 6 that Kyrgyz border guards fired at the Uzbek citizens and wounded at least three of them.
Other unnamed witnesses denied the Kyrgyz guards fired their weapons.
Some reports claimed local Kyrgyz residents were massing and demanding Kyrgyz border guards allow them to pass into Soh.
Talks between local Kyrgyz and Uzbek officials to defuse the situation were reportedly being held.
Batken Province Governor Seyitmyrat Kalykov is taking part in the negotiations.
Kalykov went to Hoshyar on January 6 but was unable to win the hostages' freedom. "Nothing threatens our citizens who are on the territory of the enclave," he said. "Talks are under way to resolve the situation."
Uzbekistan's Soh enclave has aggravated ties between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for more than a decade.
The enclave is surrounded by Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken Province, one of the most undeveloped regions in Kyrgyzstan.
The Soviet-era main road connecting Osh to the town of Batken runs through Soh.
Uzbekistan severely restricts passage through the enclave, leaving many drivers to take their chances on poorly marked, often unpaved paths used as detours.
The population of Hoshyar is mainly ethnic Tajik, which is generally true of residents throughout the Soh enclave.
Since the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan staged attacks in southern Kyrgyzstan in 1999, Uzbek authorities have bolstered the military presence in Soh. The soldiers are mainly ethnic Uzbeks.
The incident at Soh comes after Uzbek border guards shot dead a Kyrgyz citizen along the two countries' regular border on January 4.
Uzbek border guards said the man was a smuggler, but Kyrgyz border guards released a statement saying it was "not the first time…an unarmed citizen of Kyrgyzstan" was killed by Uzbek guards along the border.
Uzbek border guards have reportedly also closed the road at Aydarken, again forcing motorists on the road between Soh and Batken to resort to detours.
Written by Bruce Pannier, based on reporting by Jenish Aidarov of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, AKIpress, "Vecherny Bishkek," Interfax, and Regnum
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