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Turkmen Afghans Threaten Hunger Strike Over Island Incursion

Qarqeen district
Qarqeen district

A group of ethnic Turkmen in Afghanistan have threatened to begin a hunger strike if armed forces from Turkmenistan continue to take land that the villagers claim as theirs.

The Turkmen villagers in the northern Afghan district of Qarqeen say Turkmen forces are "grabbing their land on an island" that was formed several years ago in the Amu River, which serves as part of the border between Afghanistan and southeastern Turkmenistan.

The villagers say the river changed course and cut into Afghan territory that belongs to them.

The ethnic Turkmen say Turkmenistan recently deployed military forces to the island and began putting up fences that prohibit the villagers from reaching the large island.

Thousands of ethnic Turkmen Afghans living in the area held a protest on February 26 in front of the Qarqeen mayor's office demanding that Afghan officials take action against the Turkmen forces.

Ethnic Turkmen make up about 3 percent of Afghanistan's population of 31 million.

Reported by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service