Border Guard Wounded in Shootout over Water Access on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border


A Kyrgyz border guard received head injuries on Thursday following clashes near a disputed border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that Bishkek blamed on Tajiks attempting to divert water from a river.

Kyrgyzstan's border service said in a statement that its guards came across several Tajiks building an unauthorized water pipeline in the latest incident in the tense Fergana valley region, which is uneasily shared by the Central Asian countries amid increasing water shortages.

Bishkek said about 30 Tajik citizens began throwing stones at Kyrgyz border guards, who demanded they stop diverting the water and shot into the air.

Tajik border guards then arrived and opened fire on the Tamdyk Kyrgyz border post, including with mortar shells, Bishkek said.

The Fergana valley area, densely populated and straddling the territories of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, has seen clashes since becoming independent from Soviet rule in the early 1990s, as precise borders were never agreed.

Violence has intensified in recent years as global warming has shrunken glaciers and cut water supplies, flaring cross-border tensions.

Energy-poor Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are also planning damming projects to address energy shortages, enraging their more populous downstream neighbor Uzbekistan which has a huge cotton industry.

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