Friday, June 22, 2012 -
Kyrgyz villagers on the border with Tajikistan face criminal charges after taking 17 Tajik traders hostage Thursday in an attempt to force the release of three relatives who were arrested in Tajikistan.
Residents of the Kyrgyz village of Karabak rounded up the Tajik nationals from shops they were running at a local bazaar.
“They took the Tajik nationals hostage for the purpose of exchanging them for three Kyrgyz nationals, who were arrested with 193 kilograms [425 pounds] of mercury in the territory of Tajikistan on June 20,” a local government official of Tajikistan’s northern city Isfara told the Asia-Plus news agency.
The incident flared up from a protest by more than 150 locals against the arrest of a 52-year-old resident of Batken district and two of his colleagues in Tajikistan on Wednesday.
The hostages were released after Tajik and Kyrgyz officials of the adjoining districts held talks with the protesters.
Kyrgyz authorities have opened a criminal investigation against 10 suspected ringleaders of the hostage-taking incident, the news outlet said.
“To our knowledge, the organizers are relatives of the three Kyrgyz citizens,” the Avesta.tj news agency reported a local official as saying.
The border area is currently calm on both sides.