Armed group breaks through from Tajikistan into Kyrgyzstan: 4 killed

An armed group broke through into Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan early Friday, killing three Kyrgyz soldiers and one Tajik customs officer, Kyrgyz officials said.

The seven-strong group attacked a Tajik border post, seizing 19 automatic rifles and one machine gun and broke into Kyrgyz territory in the Batken region, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) southwest of the capital Bishkek, said regional police spokesman Jenishbek Ashirbayev.

He said the group clashed with Kyrgyz border guards, killing two soldiers, and then moved further into mountains inside Kyrgyz territory.

He said Kyrgyz security forces were trying to locate the group.

A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said that three Kyrgyz soldiers died.

In 1999-2001, fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan made several incursions into Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, which is part of the densely populated, impoverished and conservative Fergana Valley.

The valley, shared by three Central Asian nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, has been a source of regional instability since the 1991 Soviet collapse due to a rise of Islamic radicalism, reports the AP.

I.L.