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26 May, 2009 11:55

Uzbek-Kyrgyz border closed after shooting erupts

Kyrgyzstan has closed its borders to Uzbekistan. Officials say the move follows a request from the neighboring country. Kyrgyz media claim the request was made after a shooting in the adjoining Andijan province.

The shooting allegedly took place in the early hours of Tuesday on the Uzbek side of Khanabad checkpoint.

Kyrgyz Interior Ministry believes there might have been casualties. “Traces of blood are visible from the Kyrgyz side,” its report states.

A Fergana.Ru report claims the shootout was followed by an explosion, which is being investigated, and another shooting in the region of Kurgantepa, also near the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.

The General Prosecutor’s Office of Uzbekistan has confirmed that unidentified individuals attacked the police checkpoint in Khanabad, the press secretary of Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General’s Office Svetlana Artykova said to Ria Novosti.

According to her, nobody was injured but both the attackers escaped.

She didn’t either confirm or deny media reports concerning the alleged attacks against Khanabad’s local police precinct and the local department of the security services.

Artykova assured that currently the law enforcement bodies are in control of the situation.

Interfax reports that the Uzbek general prosecutor’s office has issued a statement on Tuesday relating that a police officer was killed during the confrontation and that there are several wounded.

“On the night from the 25th to the 26th of May a group of 2-3 bandits conducted an armed attack with the use of an explosive device on the checkpoint near the city of Khanabad,” the statement reads.

There are conflicting media reports concerning the number of those who attacked Khanabad’s local police precinct and the local security services’ department.

Fergana.Ru said that, according to information from the police of the town of Osh, in the late evening on Monday some 20 unknown people armed with machine guns tried to seize Khanabad’s local police precinct.

Unofficial sources of Fergana.Ru say at least four people were injured as a result of the incident.

According to Ria Novosti, as a result of attackers using a grenade launcher or explosives, the building was damaged and several law enforcement staff were killed.

Earlier there were reports of a blast at a Khanabad checkpoint.

It has not been determined whether or not these events are connected.

Uznews reports Uzbek soldiers have closed roads to the Khanabad checkpoint and deployed additional posts on Monday. According to Fergana.Ru, all restaurants and public places in Khanabad have been shut down.

“The only information available at the moment is that security services have dispatched a special force to clear the Fergana Valley and the city of Andijan in particular because of the explosion that was supposedly arranged by terrorists. It is not clear yet what was the target of the attack. This area is close to the border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which makes the situation even more serious. The reports we get from local residents indicate that, in the town of Khanabad, restaurants, cafes and tea-houses are being closed,” said Ahmad Al-Zubaidi, journalist from Arab media center Al-Salam.

Ria Novosti reports that, according to a source in the administration of one of the Kyrgyz regions, mobile communication was cut off in a number of districts of the Andijan region.

A representative of the Kyrgyz Border Service’s press service told Ria Novosti news agency that at the moment two crossing points at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border are unilaterally closed – Khanabad in the Dzhalal-Abadsk region and Dostuk in the Osh region.

Itar-Tass news agency reported that armored vehicles have been drawn to the routes connecting Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The source added that Uzbek border guards are letting Kyrgyz citizens out of Uzbekistan but not allowing anyone to enter.

Khanabad is situated on the border between Kyrgyzstan's Osh region and the Uzbek Andijan province where, according to some reports, special units of Uzbek police were operating for the last two weeks.

Andijan province hit the headlines in 2005 when riots occurred there, leaving some 187 people dead. Human rights activists believe the real number of casualties has been understated.