Kyrgyz Military Pushes Back Rebels
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ After five days of fierce fighting in the mountains along the border with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan’s troops pushed Islamic rebels out of the country Tuesday, the presidential press service said.
Officials also said eight German mountaineers who had been taken hostage by the rebels were released Tuesday and taken to the regional center of Batken. No further details were immediately available.
The rugged area where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan meet has been the scene of frequent fighting between soldiers and rebels who want to carve out an Islamic state. The latest fighting began Friday.
Earlier Tuesday, Kyrgyz artillery shelled about 50 militants along the border and the government said 600 more rebels were moving in to support the small band.
But on Tuesday evening, the presidential press service said most of the rebels had been eliminated and the rest had entered Tajikistan.
Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Bolot Dzhanuzakov said earlier Tuesday that about 40 militants had been killed since Friday.
Eight soldiers from Uzbekistan have been killed fighting the rebels, the Uzbek Defense Ministry said Tuesday, according to the Interfax news agency.
The heaviest fighting took place in the Turo Pass, about three miles from Kyrgyzstan’s border with Tajikistan, where mountains reach about 13,000 feet above sea level, Dzhanuskakov said.
The military has claimed that some of the fighters are mercenaries from Middle Eastern countries and Russia’s rebellious province of Chechnya.
The rise of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan has fueled fears that similar Islamic groups could flourish in the former Soviet republics on its borders.