Uzbekistan bars tour firms from mountains

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The Independent Online

Uzbekistan has barred tour companies from taking foreigners to its mountain and border regions because of recent fighting, the national tour operator said yesterday.

Uzbekistan has barred tour companies from taking foreigners to its mountain and border regions because of recent fighting, the national tour operator said yesterday.

The move appeared to be in response to the threat posed by Islamic militants seeking to carve out a state where the borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge. Troops from all three countries have been fighting the insurgents since the start of summer.

Uzbek Tourism told Uzbek tour agencies which work with foreign firms that they should cancel trips to the remote regions "to prevent any critical situations in which the safety of tourists can be put into jeopardy". The statement added that the government would suspend the licence of any tour company that did not comply.

Much of the area affected is dominated by pristine mountains and glaciers that have become increasingly popular destinations since the borders of Central Asia opened up with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This summer three American hikers were kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan near the Uzbekistan border and held for several days before escaping. ( AP)

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