Uzbekistan in contact with Taliban, warns against border spillover

TASHKENT (AFP) – Uzbekistan said that it was in close contact with the Taliban on Tuesday and warned it would “strictly suppress” any attempts to violate its borders after chaos from Afghanistan spilled over into Central Asia.

Ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, one of three Central Asian countries bordering Afghanistan, released the statement after days of mayhem that saw Afghan troops illegally cross over into the republic while fleeing the Taliban s advance amid the pullout of US-led forces.

The ministry said it was in talks with the Taliban “on issues of ensuring the protection of borders and maintaining calm in the border zone”.

Central Asian countries have watched with alarm as the government in Kabul collapsed in a matter of days, empowering a militant group that several states in the region helped to unseat two decades ago.

Uzbekistan on Monday confirmed that an Afghan military plane had crashed in the country s south on Sunday after it illegally crossed the border, noting that nobody had died during the incident.

A day earlier Uzbekistan said it had detained 84 Afghan troops that crossed into its territory while fleeing the Taliban.

The country s state prosecutor retracted a Monday statement which claimed that Uzbekistan had forced 46 Afghan aircraft carrying nearly 600 soldiers to land after crossing the border over the weekend. The prosecutor noted the initial statement was “not based on official verified information from the authorities”.


Russia, China hold drills

An AFP correspondent that visited the crash site in Uzbekistan s Sherabad district some 180 kilometres (110 miles) from the border city of Termez witnessed trucks carting away plane debris that had been cleared from a large expanse of scorched earth by soldiers.

Local resident Shokosim Turdiyev told AFP that a barn where his family kept livestock and feed had been burned down by flames from the crash, which he said happened on Sunday night.

“Local residents called the ambulances and then the soldiers came,” Turdiyev added, recalling hearing a “large explosion” after the planes had fallen to the earth.

Police did not allow journalists to film at the site.

A doctor in the city of Termez, Bekpulat Okboyev, told AFP that two Afghans being treated by his hospital from Sunday night onwards had been “injured while ejecting” from a plane — but were not in a serious condition.

Neighbouring Tajikistan said Tuesday that it had allowed more than 100 Afghan military members to land at Bokhtar airport in the south of the country after receiving an SOS signal.

The Tajik interior ministry said it will be holding joint military exercises with China to “combat terrorism in mountainous areas” from August 17 to 20.

Around 1,000 Russian soldiers stationed at Moscow s base in Tajikistan were also holding exercises, Russia s Central Military District said on Tuesday.

Impoverished Tajikistan this month complained of a build up of “terrorist groups” along its 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the frontier.