Violence in Tajikstan
"Details of the assault on the convoy, which occurred around midday on Sunday, have emerged slowly. Faridun Makhmadaliyev, a spokesman for the Tajik Defense Ministry, said by telephone on Monday that a column of military vehicles carrying about 80 soldiers was passing through the mountainous Rasht Valley, about 150 miles east of the capital, Dushanbe, when it was ambushed by gunmen in the heights above.
"The column sustained heavy fire from machine guns and grenade launchers, he said. At least 23 servicemen were killed and several others were critically wounded, he said. Other reports said that as many as 40 soldiers may have been killed...
"The assault came just weeks after a car packed with explosives rammed a police headquarters in northern Tajikistan, killing at least one person and wounding more than two dozen, in what apparently was a suicide attack. A few days later, a bomb exploded at a nightclub in Dushanbe, injuring seven people."
This rash of violence follows a militant prison break:
"Tajikistan faces a deteriorating security situation following the escape of 25 high-profile prisoners from a detention center in Dushanbe run by the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) on August 23. The convicts escaped less than one week after they had been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison on charges related to terrorism and drug trafficking. Some of the escapees reportedly have ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), designated by the US State Department as a terrorist group, and rebel militants in Russia’s North Caucasus republics (www.asiaplus.tj, www.khovar.tj, August 23)...
"On September 8, a previously unknown Islamic group, Jamaat Ansarullah in Tajikistan, claimed responsibility for the bombing in Khujand. The group’s statement on an Islamist website frequently used by rebels in Chechnya said the attack was carried out 'in response to the killing and humiliation of our brothers and ordinary Muslims, which took place behind the walls of this building accursed by Allah' (www.kavkazcenter.com). Although many experts, including the deputy head of Tajikistan’s Islamic Revival Party, Umarali Hisaynov, doubt whether Jamaat Ansarullah exists, the statement reflects a growing frustration with the Tajik government’s increasingly harsh policies towards non-conventional Islamic movements. In the first eight months of this year alone, Tajik security agencies jailed more than 100 members of banned Islamic organizations (www.asiaplus.tj, September 11)."
Central Asian leaders, including Tajikistan's President Emamoli Rahmon, have used the threat of Islamic militancy to track down on dissent, but this violence is real.