Uzbekistan has announced the completion of landmine clearance along its common border with Tajikistan.

Only Uzbek deminers have been involved in demining operation along the Uzbek-Tajik border, an official source within Tajik power-wielding authorities told Asia-Plus in an interview.  

According to him, the Uzbek side has refused the help of Tajik combat engineers because the demining operation has been carried out exclusively in the territory of the neighboring country.  

Recall, the Uzbek government unilaterally mined rural border areas between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the summer of 1999.  Aimed at hindering the movement of Islamic militants in the area, it is the civilians of these rural border areas have suffered the most by Tashkent’s security initiative.

Uzbek mining of separate sections of the border with Tajikistan for the purpose of preventing infiltration of militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has not yielded expected results.  Not one IMU militants has been blown up by these mines, while casualties among the civilian Tajik population have increased.  Most of the victims were women and children who were gathering firewood along the border as well as shepherds pasturing cattle in the areas.  Almost all who have survived, have become disabled for life.

Some sources say dozens, possibly hundreds of people living in the border area have been killed or injured by these land mines.

The then-head of Tajikistan Mine Action Center (TMAC), Jonmahmad Rajabov, said at the start of February 2004 that 62 Tajik citizens had been killed by land mines near the Uzbek border and nearly the same number wounded since 2000.

Tajik officials repeatedly complained about the land mines to Uzbekistan, but without any obvious result.

In January 2018, during his visit to Dushanbe, Uzbek Prime Minister Abdullo Aripov announced a decision to work with Tajikistan to remove land mines along the Tajik border.  

Under agreements reached during Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev's visit to Tajikistan in March 2018, the Tajik-Uzbek border area was supposed to be cleared of land mines by the end of 2019.

On October 6, 2018, the then-head of the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Tajikistan, Khudoberdi Kholiqnazar noted that demining work had started along the border with Uzbekistan.

TMAC released information to accompany Kholiqnazar’s announcement, noting that  in the past 20 years, 374 citizens of Tajikistan were killed and 485 wounded by land mines, although not all those casualties were from the Uzbek border area.  Land mines were planted further inside Tajikistan during the 1992-97 civil war and by border guards in areas along the frontier with Afghanistan.