Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan ceasefire holds up after border fighting

BISHKEK (Reuters) -Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan reported no major combat incidents on Saturday, indicating that a ceasefire they agreed after intense fighting on Friday remained in effect despite accusations of sporadic shelling by both sides.

The two former Soviet republics clashed over a border dispute this week, accusing each other of using tanks, mortars, rocket artillery and assault drones to attack outposts and nearby settlements, leaving at least 54 dead.

Central Asian border issues largely stem from the Soviet era when Moscow tried to divide the region between groups whose settlements were often located amidst those of other ethnicities.

Kyrgyzstan, which said 24 of its citizens had been killed and about 137,000 evacuated from the conflict area, accused Tajik forces of shelling its border outposts on several occasions on Saturday.

Tajikistan has not given any official casualty numbers, but security sources said 30 people have been killed this week, including 15 who were in a mosque that Tajikistan says was struck by a Kyrgyz drone.

The administration of Tajikistan's northern Sughd province - where the clashes erupted - said tensions were easing in the border area.

"As a result of meetings between Tajik and Kyrgyz delegations the situation on the border is stabilising, people are returning to normal life," it said in a statement.

Both countries host Russian military bases and are members of several Russia-led military and economic blocs.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and his Kyrgyz counterpart Sadyr Japarov were attending a meeting of a Russia- and China-led regional body this week when the border violence erupted.

On Saturday, Japarov said in an address to the nation that Kyrgyzstan would not give up any land in the disputed area.

"We will not stop even for a minute our efforts to settle the Kyrgyz-Tajik dispute as quickly as possible," he said.

(Reporting by Olga DzyubenkoAdditional reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov in DushanbeWriting by Olzhas AuyezovEditing by Helen Popper and Christina Fincher)