According to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Emergency Situations, 136,000 people have been evacuated from the area ravaged by the fighting.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting on the tense border between the two former Soviet Central Asian neighbors. An attempt to establish a ceasefire soon failed and artillery shelling resumed later in the day.
In 2021, a dispute over water rights and Tajikistan’s installation of surveillance cameras led to clashes near the border that killed at least 55 people.
Fighting broke out early Friday morning, according to the Kyrgyz Border Service, when Tajik forces fired on Kyrgyz border guards for the first time. As tensions mounted, the border agency accused Tajikistan of using mortars, tanks and armored vehicles to shell Kyrgyzstan’s positions, shelling an airport near the border with multiple rocket launchers and destroying civilian infrastructure.
Tajik border officials, meanwhile, accused Kyrgyz forces subjected Tajik border villages to “intense mortar bombing and shelling” with “all kinds of available heavy weapons and firearms”. Tajik authorities said they proposed negotiations and a ceasefire, but Kyrgyz forces reportedly ignored the offers.
The Kyrgyz Border Service later issued a statement saying that the two countries’ security chiefs had agreed to cease hostilities from 4 p.m., but the ceasefire failed almost immediately.
The presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Sadyr Zhaparov and Emomali Rakhmon, met Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan. According to a statement on Zhaparov’s website, the two leaders discussed the border situation and agreed to instruct the relevant authorities to withdraw troops and stop the fighting.
Kyrgyz media said Zhaparov returned to Kyrgyzstan from the Uzbek city of Samarkand and immediately convened the country’s Security Council for a meeting.