Authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have reached a cease-fire after border clashes between the Central Asian neighbors' security forces left at least two people dead and many more wounded.
The fighting on January 27, the most intense outbreak of violence between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan since a similar clash last year killed dozens, erupted along a segment of the countries' poorly demarcated border in a standoff over a blocked road.
Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security said two civilians were killed and 10 other people wounded, including six security force members and four civilians.
Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry said seven wounded people were taken to hospital. The Emergencies Ministry said 1,470 Kyrgyz were evacuated from the area of the fighting.
Tajik villagers living close to the scene of the fighting were also evacuated, according to media reports in Tajikistan.
The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance that includes both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, said its secretary-general held talks with military officials from both sides in an attempt to halt the fighting.
In the early hours of January 28, the Kyrgyz Border Service said it had reached a full cease-fire after officials from both sides held talks. According to the agreement, both sides will withdraw extra forces and equipment from the border, fully open the Batken-Isfana highway, and establish a joint patrol at the border.
Both countries had earlier accused each other of startting the fighting, which took place in the Tort-Kocho area in Kyrgyzstan's western Batken Province.
Tajikistan's Security Committee said the Kyrgyz side fired at Tajik 'residents, vehicles, and facilities.'
Kyrgyz authorities said the conflict started when Tajik citizens blocked a road crossing the disputed segment of the border.
Border guards on both sides managed to get the road unblocked, but 'the Tajik side...opened fire with mortars and grenade launchers,' Kyrgyzstan's top security body said.
Meanwhile, Zubaidullo Shamodov, a spokesman for Tajikistan's Isfara region, which borders Batken, told RFE/RL that the road was blocked by the Kyrgyz side.
Almost half of the 970-kilometer-long Kyrgyz-Tajik border has yet to be demarcated, leading to repeated tensions since the two countries gained independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union three decades ago.
Many border areas in Central Asia have been disputed since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.
The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan meet.
Last April, clashes that involved military personnel along the Tajik=Kyrgyz border left dozens of people dead on both sides.
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036