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Two killed, several wounded in Kyrgyz-Tajik border clashes

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BISHKEK/DUSHANBE (Reuters) – Two Tajik man have been shot dead and several Tajiks and Kyrgyz wounded in border clashes triggered by a dispute over road construction in Kyrgyzstan’s southwestern Batken province, authorities on both sides said on Thursday.

The clashes started on Wednesday and continued on Thursday after the Kyrgyz authorities attempted to restart work on a road project which crosses Vorukh, an exclave of about 30,000 ethnic Tajiks, in the Ferghana Valley.

Three former Soviet republics — Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — have struggled for three decades to agree borders in the Central Asian valley, which is home to several ethnic groups.

While most of the time such incidents are quickly resolved, there is a risk that they will trigger broader violence. In 2010, hundreds were killed and tens of thousands displaced in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan.

In the latest clash, dozens of men on both sides hurled rocks at each other, and several men were wounded. The violence then escalated and one Tajik man was shot dead, the Tajik government said in a statement.

The Kyrgyz government said one of its own citizens was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest.

The governments said border guards intervened to prevent further escalation, but just as the two countries’ presidents discussed the incident in a phone call on Thursday, rock-hurling and shooting started again, leaving a second Tajik dead and two men — one from each side — hospitalised with gunshot wounds.

Tajik border guards also said in a statement an angry mob broke into a Tajik family’s house and attacked them, causing serious injuries.

An official from the Ak-Sai village adjacent to the Tajik exclave, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to comment publicly, told Reuters authorities had moved hundreds of women and children out of the village.

“The situation on the border … remains difficult,” the Tajik border guards said in a statement.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek and Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe; Additional reporting by Hulkar Isamova in Osh; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Catherine Evans)

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