Clashes between Tajik and Kyrgyz protesters broke out on Wednesday, March 13, resulting in the deaths of at least two Tajik nationals in Batken province (Kyrgyzstan). The violence began after Kyrgyz authorities attempted to continue road construction of the Aksai-Tamdyk road, triggering protests by residents in Vorukh (Tajikistan). Dozens of people on either side of the border reportedly hurled rocks at each other. Tajik authorities accused Kyrgyz citizens of setting fire to a warehouse in Chorkuh (Tajikistan) and claim that at least 11 people were seriously wounded in the incident. While sporadic clashes reportedly continued on Thursday, March 14, the presidents of both countries have spoken by telephone in an effort to defuse tensions. A heightened security presence in the abovementioned area is ongoing as of Friday, March 15, and further clashes between protesters are possible over the coming weeks.
The Fergana Valley is home to several ethnic groups. Disputes over shared use of resources, such as irrigation water from rivers running through the area, have led to regular outbreaks of violence in the region since the fall of the USSR. Kyrgyzstan has been working on the construction of the Aksai-Tamdyk road, a road which Tajikistan claims could isolate Vorukh, a small and fertile town surrounded by Kyrgyz territory.
Individuals in the Fergana Valley should monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to instructions by local authorities and their home government.
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