Eurasianet says the last discovery of a smuggling tunnel between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan reportedly occurred in June.  It was the Kyrgyz authorities’ fourth such find of the year.  For many above-the-board traders, the tunnels have reportedly solved a mystery.

According to Eurasianet, three of the cross-border tunnels detected by Kyrgyz law enforcement bodies were not far from the Kara-Suu bazaar.  That is a natural spot for a smuggling operation.  The market is a vast entrepot for goods arriving from China and lies right alongside Uzbekistan’s portion of the Ferghana Valley, home to more than 9 million people.

These tunnels were reportedly formidable constructions that must have taken considerable time to excavate.

One said to have been found in the village of Telman, in the Kara-Suu district, in late May stretched 270 meters.  Eurasianet says the passage was capacious enough to enable an adult male to walk through without crouching.

A second Kara-Suu tunnel, whose discovery officials announced in early June, was dug 18 meters in depth.  The passage reportedly started from a residential property on the Kyrgyz side and ran 155 meters to Uzbekistan.

A third tunnel found in the town of Kara-Suu was the product of international cooperation, as the GKNB explained, according to Eurasianet.  The owners of two connecting houses on the border, who had been friends since 2014, reportedly reached an agreement on the project back in September.

A fourth passage, perhaps the best-appointed one of all, was found in Batken, hundreds of kilometers further to the west.  Its detection was announced by Uzbek security services.  The 130-meter tunnel was equipped with an elevator, electricity and close-circuit cameras, the Uzbek State Security Service, or SSS, said.  A truck seized during the same operation was found to be carrying thousands of mobile phones worth a total of around US$1.4 million, the security officials said.

But political analyst Ikbol Mirsaitov told Eurasianet that he believes that the passages may be intended for more than just underground trading.  “People could be sent forward and back through them,” he said.  Mirsaitov said greater investigative energy should be invested into getting to the bottom of the ultimate beneficiary of the tunnels.

“You only have to remember those scenes from Western movies, of tunnels from Mexico to the United States through which they send weapons, drugs and people,” he said.

One Kyrgyz border guard official who spoke to Eurasianet on condition of anonymity estimates that there may be as many as 18 tunnels along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in total.  He did not divulge on what basis he was making that estimate.