BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – A clash on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan has resulted in injuries on both sides and raised fears of further unrest in the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan's border guards said they fired in the air after coming under attack from hundreds of residents of an Uzbek enclave located inside Kyrgyzstan. The border guards' first deputy commander, Col. Iskender Mambetaliev, told the Associated Press on Monday that three Uzbek citizens were hit by gunfire and 13 Kyrgyz border guards were beaten. Uzbekistan said that five of its citizens were badly wounded by gunfire.
Uzbek citizens living in the Sokh enclave were angered by the installation of electrical power lines to a new Kyrgyz border post and, after attacking the border guards, they toppled several of the new poles. Kyrgyzstan's border guards said that six of the poles had been inadvertently placed on disputed territory claimed by both countries and would be moved.
The weekend clash also led to the seizing of dozens of hostages from Kyrgyz villages surrounding the Uzbek enclave. Kyrgyz villager Kabanych Mamatov told the AP that several Uzbek women were then taken hostage in retaliation and used to win the release of 14 Kyrgyz women and girls.
Mambetaliev confirmed the release of the 14 female hostages and said the remaining 16 men and boys were freed Monday evening.
Although the current conflict has been resolved, the border guards' officer cautioned that the potential for further unrest remained because of disputes over pasture land and water along the poorly defined frontier.
The border clash is a reminder of the ethnic violence that shook southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 when hundreds were killed in fighting between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Most of the residents of the Sokh enclave, however, are ethnic Tajiks.
The fertile Ferghana Valley is now divided among Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, countries that were all once part of the Soviet Union.