Kyrgyzstan said it also evacuated 11,500 citizens following clashes with Tajikistan, after the pair agreed on a ceasefire following the worst fighting at their disputed border in years.

FILE PHOTO: People protest against the results of a parliamentary vote in Bishkek on October 5, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: People protest against the results of a parliamentary vote in Bishkek on October 5, 2020. (AFP)

Kyrgyzstan has said that its death toll in armed clashes with Central Asian rival Tajikistan had reached 13 after the two countries had agreed on a ceasefire following the worst fighting at their disputed border in years.

Kyrgyzstan's health ministry said in a statement that it had suffered 134 casualties "including 13 fatalities", with two of the injured in a serious condition.

Among Kyrgyzstan's casualties was a girl "born in 2008", it added.

Military units from the two countries began exchanging fire on Thursday, but later that day a ceasefire was announced by Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry from 8:00 pm (1400 GMT), with armed forces returning to their bases.

Tajikistan acknowledged the ceasefire in a statement published by its state information service early on Friday, saying the two sides "came to a mutual agreement to end the armed conflict, to withdraw personnel and military equipment to places of permanent deployment".

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Worst one in years

The clashes that erupted along the border between the two poor, mountainous countries were the heaviest in years and had raised fears they might escalate into a wider conflict.

A representative of the police in Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, which borders Tajikistan, told AFP by telephone that the shooting had continued during the night "but not intensively".

The police representative did not confirm whether the shooting was between civilians or soldiers. He said that residents of Maksat village had been evacuated during the night.

The administration of the region said 11,500 citizens had been evacuated from two districts where fighting had been most intense, and "placed in specially organised points... or went to visit relatives".

Tajikistan, a closed authoritarian state, made fewer statements as the clashes unfolded, noting only earlier on Thursday that two citizens had been admitted to hospital, with one in a serious condition.

Border disagreements between three countries that share the fertile Fergana Valley, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, stem from demarcations made during the Soviet era.

The knotting, twisting frontiers left several communities with restricted access to their home countries.

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Reason of escalation

The frontier, dating to the Soviet era, is poorly demarcated and minor border disputes are frequent.

The latest quarrel quickly escalated as border guards on both sides joined the fighting.

A Kyrgyz government source said Bishkek feared it could permanently lose part of its territory after temporarily abandoning it.

Clashes flared late on Wednesday along the frontier between Tajikistan's northern Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken province because of a dispute over a reservoir and pumping station, claimed by both sides, on the Isfara river.

The clashes broke out in the area which lies along the road connecting mainland Tajikistan and the Tajik exclave of Vorukh. The Kyrgyz source, who was not authorised to comment on the matter officially, said Bishkek feared it could be an attempted land grab by Dushanbe.

Both countries host Russian military bases and maintain close relationships with Moscow. 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies