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Gang kills five on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border

Written by: Staff
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BISHKEK/DUSHANBE, May 12 (Reuters) An armed gang from Kyrgyzstan killed five people on the Central Asian state's border with Tajikistan early today, ransacked two border posts, hijacked a car and seized weapons, officials said.

The motive for the attacks was not clear. The mountainous border area is one of the main transit routes for drug smuggling from Afghanistan and has in the past been described by governments as a base for Islamist extremists.

In a statement, Tajikistan's Interior Ministry said at least six armed men crossed the border from Kyrgyzstan and attacked a Tajik border post at the village of Lakon, killing two soldiers and injuring a third in the early hours today.

''The criminals, having seized 19 automatic rifles and one machinegun, headed in the direction of the town of Batken in Kyrgyzstan,'' the statement said.

An Opel car with Kyrgyz government plates that they were driving overturned and the gang hijacked a Mercedes, killing the driver.

Later, the group attacked another border post in the village of Pulgon, killing two border officials, injuring one and seizing more weapons, the statement said.

A Tajik border guard source told Reuters: ''An operation is under way with our Kyrgyz colleagues to arrest the armed group of attackers.'' A spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's State Customs Inspectorate, Abdylda Maldybayev, said residents described the gang as ''armed to the teeth''.

Kyrgyzstan has seen an upsurge in lawlessness since former President Askar Akayev fled the country last year as a mob ransacked his offices after weeks of sometimes violent protests.

The country's new President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, elected last July, has struggled to maintain order.

REUTERS SI DS1301

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