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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Explosions anger Tajikistan

The bombs fell in the remote Jirgatal border region

The government of Tajikistan has protested to neighbouring Uzbekistan over the bombing of an area in the north-east of the country - an incident which looks set to sour relations between the Central Asian neighbours.

Uzbekistan has denied knowledge of the attack.

The Tajik Foreign Ministry said the bombs struck close to two villages in the mountainous Jirgital region of north-eastern Tajikistan early on Sunday morning.

It said four Uzbek Sukhoy-24 fighter jets had carried out the attack, and summoned the Uzbek ambassador to demand that such an incident would not happen again.

The ministry said it was only by chance that no-one was killed but that more than 100 head of livestock died and several hectares of crops were set ablaze.

It described the bombing as an unprecedented act, which went against the principle of friendly relations between two neighbours.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry responded that it "does not know anything about the facts of alleged bomb strikes by aircraft belonging to the Air Force of the Republic of Uzbekistan against the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan".

Opposition stronghold

The mountainous valley where the raids took place is the stronghold of Tajikistan's Islamic opposition, which for nearly five years waged war against the Tajik government.

Uzbekistan's own Islamic opponents are also believed to have based themselves in the region.

Last week, Uzbek gunmen took four hostages just across the mountains in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

BBC Central Asia Correspondent Louise Hildago says the raids may have been targeted against this well-armed group.

Our correspondent adds that the Tajiks seem upset that their powerful neighbour appears to have taken matters into its own hands and onto Tajik territory.

There are fears that the incident will further harm what is already one of the most sensitive relationships in Central Asia.

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